Darren McGregor feels for Martin Boyle after his season was ended by a serious knee injury, the defender having twice suffered in the same way.
Hibs winger Boyle was left devastated when, having been called up by Australia for the Asian Cup which has just begun in the United Arab Emirates, he was crocked in their final warm-up match.
He immediately returned to Edinburgh, ruled out of the entire tournament, and Neil Lennon’s worst fears were realised as he went under the knife on Wednesday.
Now McGregor has promised to be there for the 25-year-old as he endures the “mental warfare” of a long and arduous rehabilitation programme.
McGregor knows exactly what Boyle now faces after rupturing the anterior cruciate ligament in one knee and then in his other knee just three games into his comeback.
“I’ve been in his shoes,” said McGregor. “I’m led to believe it’s a meniscus, a lateral tear, so they are bad ones.
“But, to be ruled out for the rest of the season, I feel his pain, especially as he was on the upturn. He’d been called up for Australia, his consistency levels were good and he was playing the best football that he’s ever played.
“It’s a body blow, and for that to be taken away from you, when what you enjoy is taken away from you, it can get you down and depress you.
“People always say: ‘Ah, be positive, look on the bright side’, but when you are in your darkest hour, there is no bright side. What you treasure is taken away for five months. It’s mental warfare.
“But he’s a strong guy and there’s good people behind him. There are a few guys in the team that have had bad injuries, myself included, so if he ever needs anything whether it is a chat, a physical issue or mental support, we’ll be there for him. I did my ACL at 26 and the lateral meniscus. Then I came back from that and did the same to the other knee. I know exactly how he feels. He’s got experienced pros who will help him through these tough times.”
Dealing with the mental battle is as tough as the testing physical recovery but McGregor insisted he and everyone at Easter Road will pull Boyle through. Adamant the former Montrose and Dundee flying machine will come back as strong as ever, he added: “You can get down, you can get depressed, you can have dark days. You just have to ride it out.
“You do have negative thoughts when it first happens, but you draw inspiration from those around you.
“He’s just had a wee kid, so that’ll give him some perspective. At least when he goes home, he has the little one and his wife to look after him.
“The potential to come, that’s the carrot that dangles; your appreciation of the game.
“He’s still a young guy and the motivation is to get back playing to a high standard with Hibs and back to the Australia national team.
“That’ll be his motivation, his light at the end of the tunnel, and he needs to use that.
“For me, it’s an experience, a learning curve which takes mental toughness and means when you come through the other side you are a stronger person.”
As anxious as Boyle will be to return to action as soon as possible, McGregor revealed his advice will be simply not to rush his recovery but to let nature take its course as the injury heals and to follow the guidance of the Hibs medical team rather than give into the temptation of forcing the issue and perhaps suffering a setback which would put him out for even longer.”
He said: “I judged mine on games. It was the third game into my second season at St Mirren and I snapped it against Dundee United chasing Gary Mackay-Steven. The third game of the season afterwards against Hibs, the big guy Ben Williams, their goalkeeper, smashed into it from the side and ruptured everything. The second time is worse than the first.
“It was my left and then my right and it’s a journey.
“You accept you will have down days, but you have to stay positive.
“It’s difficult, but the medical facilities and staff at Hibs, you wouldn’t want to rehab yourself at any other club.
“In that way, he’s very lucky but, at the same time, it’s tough. There is one positive with the season being over is that he has the middle of June to get it right. The staff will make sure he goes through every stage and he’s in safe hands.”