JOE THOMSON is hopeful of an Athletic return for the second half of the campaign as he continues his recovery from a horror knee injury.

The 22-year-old, who joined the club last summer after leaving Celtic, has been out of action since tearing his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) against Ayr United in March.

After undergoing an operation – for which he praised chairman Ross McArthur as having been “first class” in organising it – Thomson is continuing his rehabilitation with physios John Porteous and Kevin Bain.

Although he hopes to be in a position to start jogging over the next four to eight weeks, the central midfielder admitted that facing up to being on the sidelines long-term has been tough but is determined to pick up from where he left off when he does make his comeback.

“It’s one of those things where you’ve always heard about the injury, and you always think it’s never going to happen to you,” Thomson explained.

“Even when people said that’s what it was, I just thought it’ll be fine, it’ll be fine, and I’ll be back playing in a couple of weeks.

“I still wanted to get back before the end of the season and, to probably miss the first half of this season as well, it’s a bit disappointing.

“I’d seen the surgeon on maybe the Monday, just to get an expert’s opinion, and I think it was about the Thursday I got the scan. Until the scan confirmed (the injury), you’re still hoping for the best and then, once you’ve got that, I suppose that’s when the realisation sets in.

“I’m not going to lie, there have been times where I’ve found it really tough because this is the first time it’s happened to me, and maybe if it happened again, I’d be better equipped.

“The mental side is probably the hardest and I’m sure that once the games start, especially when the competitive games start coming round, that’s probably when I’ll find it tough again.

“If I’m injured, I can’t sit and watch a game. I don’t enjoy it; as much as you want to be here and supporting the boys, it probably would be easier to take your mind off it and go and do something else, as bad as that sounds.

“The first couple of days (of pre-season) was hard and then the open day, where obviously I was up in the gym doing my work and you can see them out the window.

“That was hard as well because it’s the first time I’ve actually seen them out training but I just need to focus on myself.”

Thomson, voted as the supporters’ Player of the Year last term, continued: “You’ve got to think of the positives.

“There’s been a lot of exercises in the gym that I wouldn’t normally do, or have time to do when you’re fit, so there’s other aspects that I can try and improve on while I’m not able to play.

“I’m in every day and Kevin and John have got me working really hard. I’m getting stronger by the day and I’ve got a bit of checklist in my head; the next target, probably for me, will be when I can jog or run, which will hopefully be in the next month or two.

“We’ve spoken about it and we’ve got a guideline, and everything’s gone smoothly so far, but that’s not to say that I could start running and it swells up.

“There’s no point in me saying I’m aiming for November, December or whatever because you just don’t know. I know I’m in good hands with Kevin and John, two of the best physios I’ve worked with, and that’s reassuring.

“I’m looking to pick up where I left off, because I thought I had a good end to the season, and to getting back fit and playing, especially because of the amount of messages I had from the fans. That keeps you going, which I really appreciate.”