Arnaud Djoum was thrilled to see John Souttar perform so well on recent Scotland duty and not just because he is a team-mate and a friend.
For the Hearts midfielder the young centre-back is also a reassuring reminder that he can get back to his best and not only regain his place in his club side but also force his way back into the international reckoning following an injury-dogged season.
“John [Souttar, pictured] had the same injury and took around five or six months to get back to fitness, so I knew if I did a good rehab that I would be back in good time.
“John was a big help to me. I asked him a lot of questions about the rehab and what I needed to do to come back stronger, so I can thank him for that. Sometimes it is good to have someone who has been through the same injury before and can give you an insight.
“You see how strongly he has come back from this injury, he is playing his best football now and is in the national team so that gives me a lot of inspiration.”
A ruptured Achilles tendon, picked up in a match against Ross County in February was the Cameroon international’s first major injury, and the lengthy comeback has tested his mettle, mentally as well as physically. But he made a return to the first team as a 74th-minute substitute in the recent 4-1 defeat of St Mirren and is looking to build on that when the Gorgie side travel to face Motherwell today.
“It was my first serious injury. I’m 29, so it is a late one, but it is behind me now and I am happy. It was hard for me because last season that was not my only injury, I had a few small ones, and it is very tough mentally. Thankfully, my family was there to support me. They knew when to talk to me and when to leave me alone!
“The mental aspect is the toughest thing, because you see the guys on the pitch and you want to be there. But you have to sit at home and you cannot do what you love to do. It is not a physical thing,because you don’t really feel pain, it is the challenge of being patient.”
But good things come to those who wait and the much-anticipated return to top-flight action has helped diminish the bad memories of the past six months and given Djoum a hunger to start afresh with a host of new team-mates to get used to and an improved league standing to embrace.
“I feel like a new player. When I look around the dressing room and see all the names, I feel like the new signing!
“It is so different now. I need to start again. The people at the club know what I am capable of and my qualities but I need to work hard because there are a lot of good players in the team and it will be a challenge to get back in.
“The main thing I want is just to be fit and feel good in training. That is the first part I want to do. I just want to enjoy football again.
“It was a great feeling to be back on the pitch against St Mirren. There could have maybe been a sending off – it was a pretty bad tackle – it probably deserved a red card. I was lucky I didn’t get it, I was just so excited after so long out. It was Tynecastle and my emotions were high.
“The support I got from the fans was special. I need to thank them too because they’re really great and supportive with me.
“They gave me lot of messages when I was out with the injury and that was nice for me.”