Hibernian goalkeeper Ofir Marciano questioned whether he was willing to tolerate the torment of a long-term injury after being sidelined for much of the first half of the season.
However, the Israeli international’s return to the side, aligned with a sustained charge under new head coach Paul Heckingbottom, has ensured the dark days of being stuck in the treatment room have given way to personal and collective optimism.
The 29-year-old underwent an operation to mend a broken finger, which he had been managing since February 2018, last summer.
But after returning to the side in December, Marciano then sustained a knee injury only 14 minutes into his third match back at Rangers. That setback only kept him out for three matches and Marciano has played in every league game since the turn of the year, including the five wins from six matches achieved under Heckingbottom.
The former Ashdod player, however, admits his hugely frustrating spell out pushed his patience to the limit.
He said: “You always ask yourself when you’re injured if it’s worth it when you’re coming from a different country and everything. I’d be turning up here, training every day trying to get as fit as I can. It’s not a pleasant time but one that you need to face and get through. At the end of the day that’s why I’m here, to play.
“I’m happy now that I’m playing and playing well. I appreciate it and don’t take it for granted. I try to keep myself fit and in the best form that I can.
“It’s been a really weird season for me because before I didn’t really get injured but now I’ve had two injuries this year.
“Thank God I’m fit now and this is the only thing that I’m focusing on. I really appreciate the place that I’m in now.
“The most important thing is to stay healthy, work hard and take it because this is a privilege, to play football.”
Marciano has benefited from Adam Bogdan’s absence from the side after the on-loan Liverpool goalkeeper was left sidelined from concussion sustained in the Scottish Cup win over Elgin City in January.
The Hungarian international has returned to training and Marciano admits Bogdan’s availability can only be good for the team.
He added: “He did really well for us. As goalies we always set high standards and me and him try to set higher standards to each other. Both of us did well this year and I’m happy for that. Hopefully it keeps going.
“He had a concussion but now he’s okay and back training. I’m happy for him because it was a bad one, but he’s fine now and that’s the most important thing.”
Meanwhile, Chris Burke says the decision to sign his new one-year deal with Kilmarnock was the easiest he has made.
The 35-year-old attacker, pictured, who joined Killie from Ross County in summer 2017, was due to be out of contract this summer but has impressed as Steve Clarke’s side have moved up to third in the table.
The former Rangers, Cardiff and Birmingham player is “delighted” to extend his time in Ayrshire.
“I said before I am happy to be here and be part of this time for Kilmarnock,” he said. “It was probably the easiest contract I have signed in my whole time as a footballer. It definitely feels like the perfect fit to me.”
Burke, capped seven times for Scotland, says a good pre-season has underpinned his performances in this campaign.
He said: “The first season I signed here I didn’t feel I was an asset as much as I would have liked to have been. It was difficult to get in. The team were doing very well, they finished fifth, so there was no reason why I should be playing because the people in front of me were doing ever so well.
“But when I signed again [last summer], the manager said it would be level pegging in pre-season and that I just needed to show what I had to offer and he still believed I could offer something.
“I knew that if I got myself to the same fitness levels as everybody else then I would have a really good chance of playing. In my position, you have to be super fit. Wide players these days have to defend as well as attack and you have to play midfield as well.
“You need good fitness levels and I knew that once I got that base, there was no looking back.”