Steve Relieved

Steve Lomas admits that he did genuinely worry that his career could have come to a premature end - but is now convinced he will return to first team action in due course.

Steve played for 45 of a reserve game last week as he steps up his recovery, and he reveals:

"I did fear the worst although the actual thing that had to be done was supposed to be minor with a couple of screws taken out.

"You always do in the back of your mind fear it may be one operation too far, though it wasn't major surgery like my knee was.

"All the specialists have said one thing, that the ankle was in good shape and there was no arthritis - which is what I was fearful of.

"So there is no reason I can't look positively and go on and have quite a few more years playing football.

"Hopefully there is light at the end of the tunnel; the ankle still doesn't feel A1 but playing 45 minutes was a boost for morale more than anything because it has been a difficult five months."

Steve recently went to the United States for some intensive specialist work and he adds:

"Going to America helped with the rehabilitation after the surgery didn't work first time - that was the 'gutter' for me.

"It is going to take me a while because this problem takes me to half way through last season, when I probably picked up the original knock.

"It is an accumulation of a lot of injuries and two surgeries so it will take time to get over but it was just to see where I was at last week - and you have to start somewhere, although it doesn't feel 100%.

"It was great to get an indicator of how far I have to go and that was a good starter for me, I will get another game in the week - and I am looking forward positively to it.

"It takes a while when you are out to make you realise how much you miss it; I enjoy playing and training, so it is very hard for me when I am not."

Steve is not, however, setting a date for his return, and he adds:

"I can't say when I will be back; I will have to take each week as it comes because some days my ankle doesn't feel as good as other days when I wake up.

"It is about getting as much reserve games as possible in, some training, and then hopefully I can put myself up for selection.

"When you are out you really appreciate what a great job you have to be outside playing football every day for two or three hours and competing against good teams on a Saturday - and that is something that I am looking forward to.

"But you don't want to do that if you are not ready because you are not doing yourself or the team any favours."

Steve has, of course, been a spectator throughout the recent games and he adds:

"It is frustrating - I think the first half against West Brom was as well as we had played all season, and then to lose was annoying.

"We were unfortunate in the away game with them, which I went to, and that was a bit of a knock-back.

"The lads let themselves down on Tuesday, obviously, which was the game in hand that would have brought us right back into the top three mix.

"But the lads went all out to do it against Sunderland on Saturday and they are a team that will be there or thereabouts at the end."

As for the World Cup draw in which his country have been paired with England and Wales, he adds:

"It is a fantastic draw for Northern Ireland in terms of not just the games but also a financial point of view.

"It will capture the public's imagination, especially back home.

"We haven't got a manager at the moment and it has been a difficult time for Northern Ireland with not too many wins.

"But I think this will make it more appealing as a job and might bring somebody in who is a little bit more high profile."