There is a deep sense of unfortunate irony in how Marcus Godinho’s early Hearts career has panned out thus far given how he opted against a route of studying medicine to become a professional footballer.
The 21-year-old Canadian had given serious thought to the idea of being a doctor on the other side of the Atlantic before he signed for Hearts in summer 2016.
And since then he has had more contact with the medical profession than he had hoped for.
The right-back needed surgery to mend a cartilage problem in his knee shortly after arriving and subsequently spent 14 months on the sidelines.
Godinho then joined Berwick Rangers on loan at the start of last season before making his debut for Hearts in the Scottish Cup quarter-final defeat at Motherwell in March.
Amid the high of making six appearances in a maroon jersey at the end of the 2017/18 campaign, the player was still troubled by lingering problems with his knee.
Godinho underwent further surgery in May before being given the gloomy news that he could be troubled by a knee that was permanently swollen.
Thankfully, that worst-case scenario has not been realised and Godinho made his first appearance in six months in Saturday’s 2-1 victory over Aberdeen.
It was a testing afternoon for a player who was short of match fitness but Godinho, who gave away the penalty that led to Gary Mackay-Steven notching a consolation, is nonetheless delighted to be back on track.
“I constantly had fluid in my knee for a while and we didn’t know whether it was from my previous operation on my knee or if something else had happened,” said Godinho, who is hoping to play for the Premiership leaders in tonight’s rearranged Premiership clash at Dundee.
“I went away and only expected to be out for about six weeks, but it ended up being a full tear to the bone so it was about six months.
“My knee would always be swollen. It would be uncomfortable, hard to bend and when you have fluid in your knee.
“There was the potential that my knee could always have fluid in it and that’s what I was expecting, for that to be normal.
“I didn’t know how I would cope at that level again.
“They weren’t really positive about it and at first I was a bit devastated and shocked.
“I spoke to a few other specialists and some of them were more positive, some were quite negative.”
Godinho, who made 14 appearances on loan at the Wee Gers, added: “But I just hung on to the positives, put my head down and tried to take it day by day.
“I didn’t focus on it and it ended up working out. I feel stronger than I ever was so it’s looking good.
“I’ve not had any fluid at all but even now we’re going to have to potentially limit the amount of training I do and my load throughout the week.
“I won’t always be training every single day, especially if I’m playing a game, but I’ll be able to do enough that I’ll be able to maintain this level at least.”
Godinho’s injury woe has reinforced his yearning to have something to fall back on for when he eventually decides to hang up the boots.
Given his academic background, the Toronto-born player plans to enrol in a part-time university course at the turn of the year.
He added: “That was my initial goal (to study to become a doctor). I wasn’t sure if I was going to decide to go professional or on a scholarship to the US.
“That was the decision and I figured you can’t go back to football but you can always go back to education so that was my decision.
“I hadn’t really gone in to specifics but I would’ve ideally looked at a few of the Ivy League schools or if that didn’t work out, staying at the University of Toronto back home.
“I’m actually thinking of starting a university course in January.
“I’ve not decided exactly what but I think something to do with natural sciences and we’ll go from there to have it as a back up.
“We’ve got so much time anyway so I may as well get it done.
“It was always in my head but that (injury) has really shown me that I should really get it done sooner rather than prolong it.”
Godinho’s recent absence came at a time when Hearts manager Craig Levein recruited some 18 new players.
However, Godinho admits knowing there was a route back into the side kept his spirits up.
He added: “It’s tough mentally but I know the gaffer believes in me and you have to get your head down and work as hard as you can.
“Once you’re there after all the hard work, you keep pushing and pushing and I got my opportunity.
“I’m still a bit sore after the weekend but getting better. It was tough although I was excited to be back playing.
“The pace was crazy so it was a bit of a shock but I think I’ll be up to speed after a few games.”