FABIAN YANTORNO has underlined his determination to recover from a horror knee injury and force his way into Hibs boss Mixu Paatelainen's plans by returning to work at the Easter Road club's impressive training centre almost a week ahead of schedule.
Not that the two-week break the Uruguayan ace spent in his hometown of Montevideo proved to be much of a holiday, with the 25-year-old midfielder spending every day working on his fitness.
But today he insisted it will all prove to be worthwhile if, having been given the chance to complete his rehabilitation from cruciate ligament damage in his right knee under the supervision of Hibs physio Colin McLelland, pictured below right, he can persuade Paatelainen to offer him a contract.
As such, Yantorno, injured in a clash with Falkirk goalkeeper Tim Krul while playing for Gretna in January, insisted it was important he report to Hibs' state-of-the-art training ground within hours of his return to Edinburgh.
He said: "I returned from Montevideo – via Buenos Aires, Madrid and London – on Tuesday night and was back at the training centre yesterday morning. To me it was important to speak to Colin and let him assess how things had gone while I was away. I feel my knee is getting better by the day and Colin appeared very happy with it.
"But I didn't stop training for one day while I was at home. I'd left with a training programme Colin had given me and every day I was either in the gym or out running.
"It's always good to go home and for me it was good to get a break to see friends and family. When they went to work I went running or to the gym so I was able to do both.
"Recovering from an injury like mine, it was important I continue to work. I couldn't just sit around for two weeks or so and do nothing, that would have put my rehabilitation programme back immeasurably.
"I am happy with my progress, I've been working very hard and now I am able to put in some long runs and stamina work as well as working on building up the muscle around my knee in the gym."
Joking that, in any case, he's already enjoyed an over-long break from football, Yantorno admitted his patience will be tested when he sees Paatelainen's squad report back for pre-season training on Monday and immediately begin preparing for the start of their InterToto Cup campaign less than a fortnight later.
He said: "I know I won't be able to join them in all they are doing. I'll just have to be patient although, I have to admit, I am not a very patient person so that will make it all the more difficult for me.
"I want to play now but I know that is not possible and I have to be careful not to try to do something I'm not ready for and run the risk of undoing all the hard work I've already put in."
As yet, Yantorno's knee isn't up to the strain of the sort of twisting and turning expected during the course of a match, but once that hurdle is overcome, he admitted he'll face another mental test – the first crunching tackle on the joint.
He said: "I have to admit I've winced during the matches I've watched while I've been out when I've seen hard tackles made. But it is something I'm going to have to face and once I've had that first tackle then I'm sure everything will be fine.
"It's a mental thing, a bit like kicking a ball again for the first time. You feel a little bit apprehensive but it feels absolutely normal again once you have done it."
Although he believes his rehabilitation is on schedule, Yantorno revealed he's deliberately refused to set himself any target date for a return.
He said: "I know I'm going to miss the InterToto which is a pity and I'd obviously love to play against Barcelona at the end of next month. The knee is feeling stronger, I have more confidence when I run and I feel better with every passing day.
"But I'm not going to say I'll be back by this day or that, the important thing for me is to concentrate on each day as it comes, to make a little progress each day and one day I'll be ready to play again."
Repeating time and again his appreciation for the way in which Hibs have taken him in and offered him the chance to recuperate at their 5million centre, Yantorno insisted he'd love nothing more than to convince Paatelainen he can be an important part of his squad.
He said: "Obviously as a player with Gretna I'd encountered the support the Hibs fans give their team but I've had the pleasure of sitting in amongst them at four matches towards the end of the season.
"I was at Dundee United and Celtic away and Rangers and Motherwell at home and it was fantastic to see the passion of those supporters close up rather than from the pitch.
"I know what they want, to see good football and to see their team score a lot of goals and hopefully I can be part of a Hibs side which does that for them during this coming season."