Fit-again midfielder Alan McCormack admits it has been a demoralising first season at times with the Hatters after another lengthy spell on the sidelines.
The 34-year-old had suffered with injuries at previous club Brentford last campaign, only making 12 appearances before joining Luton in the summer.
It’s just hard not being involved when you’ve played so many games in your career and you love that feeling of a Saturday game and then you’re not playing.Alan McCormack
Everything appeared fine as he played the first eight league games, until a groin problem against Wycombe started a period of five months out.
On how he’s coped with the extended time away from the game, McCormack said: “It’s a difficult one, away from the place is probably the hardest part as that’s when you’re not around any of the boys.
“Your mind gets taken off it a lot more and you can have a laugh and joke with the players and sometimes it’s a bit of a false face that you put on and you look happier around the place.
“You’re chatting and smiling, keep your spirits up and have a good attitude.
“But when you’re away from it, you’re at home, you’re sitting there and the game’s coming up, or it’s a Friday or a Saturday morning and you’re not involved, that’s the difficult part.
“It’s just hard not being involved when you’ve played so many games in your career and you love that feeling of a Saturday game and then you’re not playing.
“It’s just mentally tough and you’re a little bit down on yourself, questions and doubts always come back into your mind. You’ve just got to try as hard as you can to battle all that and keep a positive frame of mind that you’ll be back.
“Then when it happens again, the questions and doubts double in size, so you’ve just got to try and stay positive, be positive around the boys and the boys have been positive around you.
“The physios and the sports fitness coaches, manager, fans, when they’re complimentary to you and positive to you, it’s a huge boost for you mentally as it has been very tough, been so frustrating, been annoying as the boys are flying.
“When you’re sitting watching games every week, it’s very, very hard to accept that you’re out injured when you just want to be back training and back playing.”
Prior to his first setback, McCormack had been in his best condition for a long time, which made the injury even more frustrating.
He continued: “It was the first pre-season I’d had in quite a while as well, as a couple of times, I got a few little niggles, so I’d miss a week or miss a few days and be stopstart.
“I do get my age is a little bit against me at the moment, but I genuinely felt the best shape I’d been in for a good five or six years in pre-season and starting the season.”
However, on specifically what has kept him out for most of the season, McCormack said: “I knew I’d have to manage the groin area with a problem in the stomach, so it was actually the left groin which I’ve never had a problem with before, I had a problem with that at Wycombe.
“Then coming back from that my right one started to play up again because of the two, three weeks rest from that, getting straight back into training, looking to get back involved quickly, it was just too much of an ask.
“So we decided to nip that in the bud, get a little procedure done, I came back really, really good from that, flying.
“I was due to play in the JPT, then had a little strain in the calf out of nowhere in training, and it just kept coming back.
“It was a mixture of probably too early maybe on one of them and pushing too hard on the previous one. I came in and did sprints with Jared (Roberts-Smith, head of sports science) and probably just did a little bit too much and too quick.
“The calves are such a sensitive areas, my problem is I was sprinting, so I’ve got to save myself those sprints now.
“Even though I’ve not slowed down over the years, I’m still keeping a really good high pace, high speed running, I’ve just got to manage that quite carefully coming back this time.
“We’ve decided to go down the route of everything being football based but keeping the high speed running down to a minimum and slowly letting the endurance of the calves build up.
“So far it’s been really good, I felt really good in training, training hard.
“You do tend to push yourself a little bit harder and a little bit quicker to get back, I’ve paid the price a couple of times, but I feel really good now.
“We’ve done really well in the gym and getting everything ready, getting the body ready and keeping everything in shape for when I do get back on the grass.”
McCormack has always been felt part of the squad in his time away though, adding: “Away games obviously it’s harder, because the club will only take the players that are involved in the squad, but any local games, myself and Scotty (Cuthbert) went to Stevenage.
“We met the boys for pre match and wanted to be around all the lads.
“Any home game, I’ve always tried to go to them.
“I do like watching football, I’d rather be playing it, but me wanting to get into coaching as well, it’s good to go and look at a game from a coach’s point of view or a manager’s point of view.
“You can see what you’d do and if what you think is happening is the same as what the manager thinks.
“I always try to be around the boys, always have breakfast with them, always come in at the same time as them, be on the grass as the same time as them. You want to still feel a part of it even though you’re not playing.”