Derby County's Graeme Shinnie is delighted to be back on the pitch after making his return from injury - and he is determined to regain the form he was in prior to his spell on the sidelines.
The Rams’ midfielder was sidelined with a hamstring injury he sustained in the home victory over Preston North End towards the end of November.
The injury came at an even more frustrating time for Shinnie, who had fought his way into Phillip Cocu’s side and was in fine form for the team.
The Scotsman impressed in his first league appearance for Derby, after signing from Aberdeen in the summer, when he played the full 90 minutes in the 2-0 home victory against Luton Town at the start of October.
His performance solidified his place in the team moving forward and Shinnie’s glorious last-minute strike in the 1-0 win over Wigan Athletic towards the end of October was nominated for the Championship's Goal of the Month award.
“I was really enjoying my football, which was the frustrating part,” Shinnie told RamsTV.
“It’s been a really strange season for me and something I have not been used to. I had to fight for my place in the team, but I knew it was always going to be tough coming down here from Scotland.
“At the start of the season not getting on the bench and not playing any minutes which was frustrating, but then got my chance and I felt like I took it. I think I played seven in a row and I was really starting to enjoy it.
“We had some good wins at home which was really good, then possibly the worst thing I could have done was my hamstring and I was out for two months.
“It has been a different season to what I have been used to, but hopefully now I am over the injury and I can get back to how I was.”
Shinnie returned to action on Friday night when he replaced Chris Martin in the 66th minute against Stoke City, just in time to join in the celebrations after Wayne Rooney’s stunning free-kick put the Rams three goals ahead before going on to win 4-0.
Having put in the work to return from his first lengthy spell out with an injury, the 28-year-old admitted he was delighted to step over the line again.
“It was tough in the game coming on, I’m not going to lie. Being out for two months, it is almost like doing a pre-season all over again,” he said.
“I was just happy to get on the pitch and get some minutes under my belt again to slowly get back to where I was. I have never been injured for a long time before, so it was all new to me. It is just about getting your head down, doing the work and getting back as quickly as you can.”
He added: “It was nice, especially when I had just come on and Wayne Rooney put one in the top corner to go 3-0 up. It makes it that little bit more comfortable, but it was good to just try to get my fitness back.
“My normal fitness is really high and is always normally pretty good, but match fitness is so much different.
“You can run on the grass all day, but when you get back in to real games it is a lot different, so I felt the pace of the game when I came on. It was just about trying to get the sharpness back and get the feel for the ball again after being out for two months. It was nice to just get that run out and hopefully I can build on that.”