Adam Hammill is determined to “prove people wrong” after being rescued from the football wilderness by Barnsley.
The 27-year-old was released from his contract by Huddersfield Town in September and spent six weeks on the sidelines as he searched for a new club.
The former Liverpool trainee revealed it was “the worst period of my life” after falling out of favour with then Terriers manager Chris Powell.
Hammill signed a short-term deal with former club Barnsley and netted on debut against York City in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.
Today he faces another Yorkshire derby at Oakwell, against Sheffield United, and is just relieved to be back playing.
“It was possibly the worst period of my life,” said Hammill. “Since I was a young kid, all I have wanted to do is play football. I love football.
“It was tough, it took its toll on me, I went through a difficult time.
“But I have come back a bigger and stronger person. I have a young family now, it’s given me that focus to do well again, the determination that I am doing this for my family. I am thriving under that.
“My family have been magnificent for me, they were there to drag me up when I was down.
“That’s the side of football that people don’t see.
“It does affect people, it affected me really bad.
“I am just delighted to be back in the fold, and an integral part of the team. It’s something as a confidence player I need.”
Hammill has impressed in his four games so far for Barnsley – his third spell at Oakwell.
It is a far cry from his days at Huddersfield, where off-the-field problems hindered his progress, including an arrest for assaulting two female paramedics.
Asked to describe what went wrong playing-wise at Town, Hammill replied: “I felt like I should have been playing and didn’t get the opportunities I deserved.
“That’s just football, politics. I am grateful to have this chance, to prove people wrong, and I am actually a real good player.
“That’s added fuel to the fire, it’s given me a spring in my step to prove people wrong.
“Before I signed at Barnsley, I had a few options, but didn’t want to be jumping from club to club, I wanted to be somewhere familiar.
“Somewhere where the fans can take to me – we have that relationship.
“The fans played a massive part in me moving here.
“On my debut, it couldn’t have gone any better. The last two games have been unfortunate for me as I hit the post in both games. I am getting more and more confident as each game comes.
“I am under no doubts that come January 9, I will have quite a few goals and assists under my belt and people will see Adam Hammill is back.”
First up is a South Yorkshire derby, the prospect of which Hammill is relishing.
“It’s a massive game,” he said. “I think we are in a false predicament. We are playing good football and shouldn’t be where we are in the league. We are, and have to deal with that.
“I love derby games. Every derby is special. Growing up in Liverpool, I am a Liverpool fan, so the first fixture you look for is the local derby. We just want to go out there and put on a performance for the fans.
“Even on Tuesday night, after a loss (at Peterborough), they stayed behind and clapped us off because they see the determination and desire.
“I have really enjoyed coming back. I have adapted well, put in a few decent performances. As a team, the performances have been decent lately, we just haven’t had the rub of the green.
“We just have to keep confident, keep playing the way we are, and results will turn.
“Saturday provides a massive incentive for the players; it’s a local derby and a game everyone here is looking forward to.
“It’s a young dressing room, but a very talented one. It only took me two or three training sessions to recognise that.
“The ability in the squad is unquestionable, they just needed that little bit of experience in the squad, to guide them through games, with a little bit of know-how.”
After ending last season on loan at Rotherham United, Hammill had not played for six months apart from two substitute cameos for Town in early August.
He spent the six weeks between clubs trying to stay fit, but nothing can replicate playing games. He said: “I think I have adapted really well. Initially, I had two games in a week and I was a little bit sore. I thought I was going to be a lot worse off.
“I had a month and a half where I trained myself, did boxing, and went running. But nothing prepares you for 90 minutes of football.
“After the York City game, I was dead on my feet. But I have got four games under my belt now, all 90 minutes, and my fitness is building. I feel I am around 75 to 80 per cent fit, so have some left in me.
“I am here until January 9 so want to get as many minutes, games, assists, goals as possible.”
Reds manager Lee Johnson is eager to extend Hammill’s short-term deal as he has seen the experienced winger help mentor a young Tykes squad, who have lost nine out of their last 10 league games.
“There’s no doubt we would love to keep him long term,” said Johnson. “It’s a case of sitting down with the powers-that-be to thrash out a deal. We love him and want him to stay.”