A week is a long time in football. Two years, then, must have felt like a lifetime for former Motherwell winger Craig Tanner. 

Having suffered a ruptured patella tendon and dislocated kneecap in a freak training accident in March 2018, Tanner sat in the Fir Park physio room after seven months on the treatment table and contemplated packing it all in at the age of 23.

He was miserable. Hard work in the gym had merely brought loneliness and isolation. 

Motherwell forward Craig Tanner rejects contract and leaves club

“You watch your team-mates playing football while you’re having to re-train your whole body,” said Tanner, who is now trying to resurrect his career at Aldershot in English football’s National League.

“I could barely walk up and down the stairs. Simple stuff like getting on and off the sofa properly was hard.

“It’s a really rare injury in football which is a lot worse than doing your ACL [anterior cruciate ligament]. It takes over your whole life, being up at 3am or 4am, 15 pages deep in Google searches trying to see what else I can be doing.

“I hit a brick wall six or seven months in because I wasn’t improving and was in a lot of pain. You give your all in the gym; I was on my own in the gym every day and felt like I was never going to get that break.

“I was ready to give up. I was going to pack up and go travelling. I had a chat with the physio at Motherwell and told him if I didn’t see improvement, I’m not going to keep doing it. I wasn’t enjoying it, it wasn’t football. 

HeraldScotland: Tanner had been playing well for MotherwellTanner had been playing well for Motherwell

“Every day I was going through pain, physically and mentally, so I was very close [to retirement].”

Tanner could hear from the stands fans were questioning his chances of a return.

“A lot of people wrote me off and told me I’d do well to get back,” he said. “When you’re already not in a great headspace and feel like everything is going against you, when you hear people say ‘he’ll never be the same player’, it does affect you. At the end of the day you’re trying to get back playing for the team and perform for the fans. It knocks you back.”

Offered a new deal by Motherwell during his time out, Tanner surprised manager Stephen Robinson by turning it down. The former Plymouth and Reading player says, though, he only has positive memories of his time in Scotland.

“Before I left Motherwell I always wanted to get back playing for them,” he said. “For me, that would’ve been the completion of the comeback. Obviously I never got that opportunity for various reasons.

“I want to say thank you to Stephen Robinson. He brought me on and made me a better player. Before I got injured he really developed my game a lot. He’s a terrific manager and I couldn’t be happier for the club and the players who are still there.”

Tanner is now trying to get himself back to the form that had scouts lining up at Fir Park to watch him.

Injury blow for Motherwell as Craig Tanner goes under the knife again

“When I signed for Aldershot and told the lads how long I’d been out for, they couldn’t believe it,” he laughed. 

“I feel now like I’m rebuilding my career. You lose all the credit you have in the game when you are out for a long time. I’ve wrapped my head around it now to be able to get over it, but it was tough.

“I just want to prove everyone wrong and show I am over it and will be able to get back to where I was, or perhaps even higher.”