JON Meades has not given up on a dream ending to his first season at Oxford United, which he readily admits has so far been a nightmare.
The elegant midfielder was the club’s first signing last summer, but he has yet to kick a ball in anger.
It is now more than five months since Meades sustained a freak ankle injury, which came while running unchallenged in the final pre-season friendly.
Doctors initially thought it would heal without the need for surgery, but after several weeks of rehabilitation it became clear an operation was required.
There is light at the end of the tunnel again for the Welshman, who is hoping to begin running again in two or three weeks.
Meades is wary of setting a deadline, but is focused on making a contribution when the U’s will need it the most.
“The season’s not over at all and hopefully I’ll be back for the last third of it, which is obviously the biggest part," he said.
“In a way I would rather have got injured this way, rather than played the first couple of games and then got injured, because then you’re useless for the last bit of the season, when you can try and contribute to get over the finish line.
“I really don’t want to put a date on it because I did it before and it hit me back.
“I’m hoping around mid-February I’ll be back playing, but it’s all depending on when I start back running.
“It’s a complicated injury, so it’s down to how it reacts to different things and sometimes it takes longer than expected.”
The 21-year-old is always a cheery presence at the training ground, but it does not mean the last few months have not been a testing time.
He said: “It has been a bit of a nightmare and obviously having that period where you think you are going to come back and play and then having a setback has probably been the hardest thing.”
He added: “I’ve had a few restless nights and it just goes over and over in your head.
“With that side of it you have to try and switch it off, but it is hard.”
Jon Meades is stretchered off against Coventry City in July
The recovery has been aided by time at the new St George’s Park in Burton.
Meades and Alfie Potter, also recovering from ankle surgery, travelled to the National Football Centre last month and return on Monday for another week.
Meades said: “That was amazing the facilities are state-of-the-art and we got to use the underwater treadmill.
“You get a physio between two of you, so it’s quite hands-on and it hopefully it helps the rehab.
“Being stuck in the same place gets a bit monotonous, so getting a change of scenery is good.”