A nasty hamstring injury picked up early in the Leyton Orient away game back at the start of April left skipper Morgan Feeney sidelined, and with a race on his hands to make sure he was fit for a potential play-off final.
And hard work throughout his rehab period has means that it’s mission accomplished on that score, with him back in full training as of Monday this week.
“It’s obviously frustrating, but when you aren’t involved you’re there to cheer the lads on,” he insisted. “Honestly though, it’s a horrible watch, I don’t enjoy it one bit.
“It’s so much better and easier when you’re playing than it is watching. It’s just like, I don’t know what it is, you get so much more nervous when you’re not out there.
“Everyone who is injured or who can’t play for whatever reason are desperate to be involved, but we’re all there for the lads and it’s about the whole group. Hopefully Sunday will be a good day because of what everyone has done.
“The injury itself made it more frustrating because it was one of those where, when I did it, there were no signs previous to it that I was maybe carrying a little injury that had got worse. That’s why it could be down to anything.
“It could be the long travelling, anything, but I think it was more just the manner of how I did it. I’d sprinted into a little bit of a deceleration and then I stretched trying to block a clearance. I think I just got myself into a bit of an awkward position and unfortunately I ended up tearing it.
“I’m through it now and hopefully, if this week goes well and as planned, at the very least I’ll be fit. Again, I’ve got a few things I need to check off this week to get training and get feeling good again. Fingers crossed I’ll be around.”
That positive attitude of being there for the group whatever the situation is typical of the way things have been approached by every member of the squad this season.
“It has to be that way,” he told us. “It’s not about me, or if I’m fit or not fit, it’s about the lads. You can say that about anyone who is injured, Dev, Jack Ellis, if people have been missing at a certain point they’ve always been there for the lads, whether that’s a match day or during the week.
“When I say it’s a tight knit group I’m not just saying it, because you can say that in every interview you ever do, but this is a very good group of lads and we’re all there for each other, which is good. Hopefully on Sunday that will show again.
“You always see in training that the standard is so high. If you’re fully fit and you miss out on the 18 on the match day it could be easy to coast through training and maybe be disappointed, and let that show, but there hasn’t been any of that this year.
“The lads who have missed out have trained so hard because they want to get back in it, and the fact is that we’ve needed everyone this year. Everyone has stepped up when they’ve come in and I think that shows what kind of group we are, and the type of characters we have in the changing room.”
Importantly it’s a squad that has found its form coming in the big stage play-off fixtures.
“We spoke about it in the summer with the gaffer, that we wanted it to go this way, and that’s why we had a really tough pre-season,” he explained. “We did that because we wanted to be at the peak of our fitness for this stage of the season, where other teams were maybe dropping off a little bit.
“We wanted to be in a position where we were comfortable to do those 120 minutes if we had to, and I think the rewards have come from that. We just have to keep going now because we’ve got one more to do.
“Everybody says that to go up through the play-offs is the best way, if you win, and of course we’d have taken the automatics if we could. That wasn’t to be so now it’s what an occasion, what a chance, what an opportunity.
“We’re in a final and we can win at Wembley, and there aren’t many people who can say they’ve done that. Hopefully we’ll be the group to do that, and it’ll be some day for the fans if we can.”
The prize for the successful team, of course, is promotion to League One, the ultimate reward at the end of a long, tough campaign.
“It is massive, we all know that, but you have to just go about everything in the same way,” he said. “Nothing changes, it’s still the next game, although it’s a final and it’s a massive occasion.
“We have to go about it in the same way we always do, calmly, and let’s just complete the job. We’ve done that quite well this year so from our point of view nothing changes. It’s another game we have to go and win, and I fancy us to go and do that.”
“There’s been a real buzz around the place this week,” he continued. “Again, we’re not getting ahead of ourselves, we’re doing things in a calm way.
“Saturday is out of the way, what a night that was, but now it’s back to business. As it has been all season, the feeling around here has been great with the lads taking the mick out of each other, and it’s a great feeling.”
And it’s another encounter between two very evenly matched teams.
“You’ve got to beat the best to win, and again that’s another challenge for us,” he commented. “We’re more than up for it and we think we can go and do that.
“There’s no doubt it will be a tough game but if you’re a footballer they’re the games you want to play in. You don’t just want to be playing in easy games, you want to be at places like the Wembley stage, with tough games where it feels so much better when you go and win.
“If we do that then personally it will certainly be up there as one of the highlights of my short career so far. It means so much to me, to all of the lads, because we’ve worked so hard for it this year.
“We’re hungrier than ever to go and do it, and it’s the same hunger in there that we’ve had from the start. We maybe didn’t speak about it as much back in July, but we always believed and we have talked about it in the dressing room.
“Everyone is in the same position where we’re just so hungry to go and win, so I think we’re in a really good place.
“And it would be great to do it for the fans, because they’re incredible. The lads thank them after every game and it’s not just empty words.
“It’s a genuine big thank you because of the way they’ve been with us and the way they’ve backed us. It really has got us over the line in some games, as you’ve seen, and if you look at last Saturday they didn’t half lift us.
“When Derbyshire scored in extra time and they equalised, the fans stuck with us. It’s very easy to become frustrated and leave us behind, but they’ve stuck with us all season home and away.
“The away support we’ve had this year for the long distances and stuff has been incredible. It’s easy to say when they’re a big team from wherever, and every journey is a short journey, but the travelling our fans have had to do this year has been huge.
“They’re there at every game singing and the away games feel like home games with the way they create a noise. The home games obviously speak for themselves, and the lads are so grateful to the fans.
“It would mean as much to them as it would to us to get it done on Sunday. Just to visualise seeing all of their faces if we’ve won would be so special.
“And we all know that League One football would be massive for this club and for every individual in that dressing room.
“It would be massive for the staff and the people in the city, so we know how big it is and we know what’s at stake. We feel like we’re well equipped and that we can get the job done, and hopefully everybody from Carlisle on Sunday will be celebrating.”