By Tony Leighton
After a surgery-enforced nine months on the sidelines, Stevenage defender Ben Chorley was delighted to be back in action despite being on the losing side in his team's Johnstone's Paint Trophy penalty shoot-out defeat at Swindon Town.
Former Leyton Orient captain Chorley, whose last appearance - only his eighth for Stevenage after switching from the O's on January's transfer deadline day - was on 2nd March, told football-league.co.uk: "I was over the moon to get back on the pitch and start playing again after the most frustrating time of my career.
"I'm 31 now and the longest I was out before this was for a few weeks through a torn thigh muscle when I was 22 or 23. The process this time was a lot longer than I thought it was going to be - my thinking when I had the operation was that I'd be out for about eight weeks, so it's been a long, hard journey to get back.
"It's very lonely at times, being in the gym on your own when the lads are out training and then not being involved on matchdays. It's been tough mentally, but doing different stuff like yoga and Pilates has helped and it's definitely made me stronger as a person and made me appreciate what a great job I've got."
A niggling groin problem led to a double hernia operation which was followed by a stop-start rehabilitation period for Chorley, whose final push towards a full recovery came in a week spent at the medical and sports science facility at St George's Park, the Football Association's national centre near Burton on Trent.
"St George's Park is fantastic," he said. "It was my first visit to the centre and it's awesome. The rehab work I was doing was really hard, but the facilities I was able to use were absolutely top class and I can't speak highly enough of the staff, who pushed me to the limit in three sessions a day but got me in great shape."
Former Wimbledon and Tranmere Rovers player Chorley, who started his career at Arsenal, was in good enough shape to play the full 90 minutes of his comeback game. Sadly for Stevenage they lost the Trophy tie 3-1 on penalties after a 1-1 draw, Chorley taking one of the spot-kicks but skying the ball over the crossbar.
Now he is hoping to be in the starting line-up for Saturday's Sky Bet League 1 trip to Port Vale, where Stevenage will be hoping to improve their currently precarious position in the relegation zone as the campaign approaches the half-way stage.
"It's a big game for us and it will be tough but we should go there feeling pretty confident after the Trophy game at Swindon.
"They're seventh in the table, but it was a very even game and we shaded it towards the end. I was obviously disappointed to miss my penalty, but someone has to step up to take them and shoot-outs are a lottery.
"The important thing now is that we get back on track in the league. I believe we can do that and I hope I can make a difference now that I'm back and fully fit. I know we're a fair way through the season, but it seems like it's only just started to me. I'm back, I'm hungry and I'm aiming to give it my very best for Stevenage."
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