St Mirren striker Cody Cooke is feeling stronger than ever after making sure to work on his mental scars as well as the physical ones on his road back from injury.
The Englishman was ruled out for four and a half months after suffering a serious knee injury during the Betfred Cup group stages.
It was a devastating blow for the 26-year-old, who had been hoping to impress new boss Jim Goodwin after firing a hat-trick on the final day of last season as Saints avoided automatic relegation.
He was left facing day after day of gruelling rehab work but Cooke revealed the gym was not the only place where he put the hours in to speed up his recovery.
With the help of football mindset coach John Johnstone, the former Truro frontman has developed a set of tools he says helped him overcome his darkest days in the treatment room.
Now he believes those coping mechanisms will also allow him to roll with the punches as he returns to top-team action.
Cooke, who hopes to force his way back into Goodwin’s team for Saturday’s visit of Livingston after making his return during last week’s win over Hamilton, said: “The hardest part of being out injured is definitely dealing with the mental side.
“I actually spoke to someone specifically about the psychological side of things. He’s called John Johnstone. He’s from Edinburgh and does a lot of work with Hibs and Hearts players.
“I reached out to him on Instagram about six months ago and we’ve been talking things over since then. He’s developed a programme for me to ensure I could come back mentally and physically better.
“It’s just as important to deal with the mental side of injuries as it is with the physical side. And it’s not just with injuries it can help with, it can be goal droughts and other things people go through.
“I feel I can use it as a tool going forward to ensure I stay mentally strong.”
Cooke’s 18-month spell in Paisley has not been short on drama.
The man who signed him, Alan Stubbs, lasted just four Ladbrokes Premiership fixtures before being axed.
Oran Kearney replaced the former Hibs boss and successfully steered the Buddies to safety via the play-offs.
Cooke’s Dens Park treble against Dundee had ensured they did not finish rock bottom but the injury he sustained against Albion Rovers back in July denied him the chance to show new boss Goodwin what he was made of.
His comeback against Accies coincided with Saints’ first away win in the league all season and now he hopes the Buddies – who sit ninth but only two points above the drop zone – can start clambering away from this season’s battle at the bottom.
“My time here has been a huge roller-coaster ride,” he said. “At the start of last year we had the change in management. I scored the hat-trick on the last day against Dundee but then we had the play-offs.
“At the start of this season I was thinking I was going to hit the ground running and with the new manager coming in I just wanted to make a good impression – but then I got the injury. Now I’m back but things just seem to keep going up and down.
“Hopefully things won’t be so traumatic and it will be plain sailing until the end of the season.”
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