Seeing Ashley Hodson back out on the training field has given everyone in the Liverpool FC Women’s camp a huge boost.
The long-serving attacker has been sidelined since May when she suffered anterior cruciate ligament damage following an awkward fall in training.
But the 23-year-old, who came through the club’s centre of excellence and development squad teams, has maintained a positive mindset throughout and is targeting a return to action next month.
“It’s been going really well,” Hodson explained.
“I’m back in training now so it’s just a process of building myself back up to the same fitness levels as everybody else so I can be in the best place possible when I come back.
“We tend not to put a scale on it because there can be setbacks along the way, but I’m hopeful that I will be back for a few months before the end of the season.
“Now I need to play a few games for the development squad to get my match fitness back and hopefully by February, I’ll be ready to go.”
Hodson, who has the highest number of first-team appearances to her name in the Reds’ squad, admits she had an anxious summer when the club had a managerial change.
“It was hard, especially to know that when we got a new manager I was going to be out for a while,” she said.
“That was a really scary process for me because I was thinking, ‘does he want me, does he not?’ and obviously I was never going to be able to prove to him what I could do. I just had to be patient.
“Fortunately Neil Redfearn was very reassuring when he came in and so has Vick [Vicky Jepson] been now. That was good to know because obviously I was sat on a bit of uncertainty so it was really nice for me to hear that I was still wanted. That probably pushed me on more to want to get back.”
Hodson’s mental strength has come into play and she has always remained positive during the lonely months of rehabilitation.
She added: “I’ve had this kind of injury before and I think that has helped me.
“Being able to get back out on the grass with the girls has been a big thing for me.
“We have had a lot of change in the playing staff since last season and when all the girls are out on the pitch, that’s when you get to know each other the best.
“Then I was in the gym on my own, it was hard but the girls have all really welcomed me back onto the pitch.
“When I was being integrated back into it, they were patient with me because it is hard to come back in after a long time out. They’ve all been really supportive and we’ve got a really good team bond here.”
Hodson was delighted to see Jepson named as manager having previously worked under her in the club’s age group teams.
“I was really happy for Vick and obviously I have a lot of trust in her,” she stated.
“I’ve worked with her throughout the centre of excellence and the development squad so I was really excited when I heard that she was going to be the manager.”
Hodson also paid tribute to the efforts of physiotherapist Hina Chauhan, who has helped facilitate her return.
She said: “I literally can’t thank Hina enough. I’ve been a pain in her backside the whole time, constantly asking her questions but she’s been my rock.
“I’ve spent a lot of time with her and got to know her really well. She knows me really well now too and we work really well together. That’s probably why my rehab’s gone so well.”
Chauhan added: “Ash has been doing fantastically well. It’s hard when you’re the only one re-habbing and you’re in there day in and day out on your own but she’s put her head down and worked really hard.”