DONCASTER Rovers midfielder Martin Woods has described the past 15 months as the worst of his career.
The former Leeds United and Rotherham United player was nearly pushed into retirement by hip and groin problems but returned to action in midweek against Hull City.
At 26, Woods insists that surgeons have finally got to the bottom of his problems and wants to make up for lost time by helping Rovers stay in the Championship.
“It’s been a horrible time, the worst of my career,” he said. “But I feel as if I have come back a stronger and better person. You always have doubts in your mind and my main concern was that no-one could really diagnose my injury.
“The abductor (muscle) was not enabled to strengthen and there was a lot of build-up around that area which had to be taken away. It’s now loosened off and I know what I need to do to maintain it and make it stronger.”
Woods, who joined Rovers five years ago, says previous battles against the drop can stand Rovers in good stead over the final 18 games.
Ahead of today’s game with Reading, the club is five points adrift of safety but have 10 points from a possible 12 in the last four home games.
“We have been in it before and know what we need to do,” said Woods.
“It’s about playing under pressure more than anything. Everyone would like to be mid-table but you need to show big character to play under pressure. You have to be strong enough to go and get the ball. There can be no hiding.”
The loss of leading marksman Billy Sharp to Southampton shortly before the transfer deadline was a setback for Rovers but there was better news on Thursday when Senegalese striker El Hadji Diouf signed a new deal until the end of the season.
Manager Dean Saunders is hoping that funds from the £2m sale of Sharp will be made available to strengthen when the loan window reopens next week.
“We have cut a lot of money off the wage bill since I’ve been here,” said Saunders. “The players I have signed have not been earning as much as the ones who have been leaving. If the funds are available, I would like to strengthen and I have got players I am interested in.”
Saunders regards latest signing Fabien Robert as a player for the future but has not ruled out a place on the bench for today’s game.
The former French Under-20 international, now 23, is the younger brother of former Newcastle United winger Lauren Robert and has moved from French side FC Lorient until the end of the season.