After two years of anger, frustration, heartbreaking setbacks and a huge dose of determination, Grant Roberts says he is happy to be ‘home’.
The Boston United midfielder admitted he had serious doubts about whether he would ever play football again after a freak infection left him sidelined and needing a series of operations.
But a never-say-die attitude has seen the 27-year-old offered a new deal at the Jakemans Stadium after impressing Craig Elliott on trial this summer.
“It’s really good to be back at Boston. I’ve had a tough few years which have been challenging and, at times, I thought I wasn’t going to get back playing,” Roberts told The Standard.
“I’m really happy to be back. But for me the hard work doesn’t stop, it’s about trying to repay the faith that Craig Elliott has shown in me.”
Roberts last played a league match on August 20, 2016, the Pilgrims losing 2-0 at Chorley.
Two days later a bolt from the blue turned his world upside down.
“I woke up on the Monday morning and my knee felt sore,” he explained. “As the day went on it just ballooned to the point where I couldn’t walk.
“I was at home for a couple of weeks, went to A&E and they said I’d injured it playing football. That wasn’t the case.
“Eventually I had some bloods taken and that proved I had an infection in my knee that had been there for a couple of weeks.
“I was in hospital for three weeks and had three operations to clean it out.”
After returning home, Roberts thought he was facing the simple task of getting his fitness back up to scratch and lacing up his boots again.
“I couldn’t sprint, couldn’t change direction,” he continued. “I kept having scans and they said they couldn’t see what was wrong.”
Roberts was due to return to pre-season training a year ago, hoping to catch the eye of Adam Murray.
But yet another setback was round the corner.
“Eventually I had another scan and they said ‘your ACL’s ‘not showing’,” he said.
“They said the infection ground away at my ligament and I had to have that reconstructed in September, which kept me out for the rest of last season.”
While those setbacks were leaving Roberts unable to second-guess his future, his work as a personal trainer also suffered with months of employment lost as he found himself sidelined.
But the refusal to give up has finally paid off this summer, with Roberts able to return to action, being offered a deal by current boss Craig Elliott at the one club he really wanted to play for.
“It feels like home, even though I live in Leeds,” Roberts said.
“For me it feels that way at Boston, probably because I’ve played some of my best football here.
“It’s a different manager but Craig looks like a good manager. He’s honest and gets you working hard.”
And last week Roberts played his first competitive match in 23 months, also getting on the scoresheet as Boston were beaten 3-2 by Lincoln United in the Lincs Senior Cup.
The result may not have been one to savour, but the midfielder was looking at the bigger picture.
“The injury came out the blue but I’ve taken it on the chin,” he said.
“I love playing football and I know if you get an injury where you break your leg you think ‘fair enough’.
“For something to happen out the blue and never really have an answer why it happened was just hard to take.
“It’s been a tough two years but I’ve always had a good attitude.
“I’ve got a point to prove to myself and a lot of people that I can get back playing and enjoying it.
“I want to get back to level I was at before, if not better.
“I’ve always been hungry to do well. They say you come back stronger and I’ve definitely come back mentally stronger and probably fitter than I thought.
“It’s turned out well, but it doesn’t stop. I want to be back in the team and playing.”