Jack Ashton insists the support he has received from fans and those behind the scenes at AFC Rushden & Diamonds has made him more determined to come back from injury as quickly as possible.
The defender is facing “two to three months” on the sidelines after having an operation on an Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL).
Ashton initially picked up the injury during pre-season but continued to play through the pain at the start of the Evo-Stik Southern League Division One Central campaign.
But it was confirmed he would require an operation and that sparked a fundraising effort from the club to help raise the £2,000 for it to be done immediately.
An initial call saw £491 raised while further collections will be taken during Diamonds’ home clashes with Beaconsfield SYCOB on Saturday and against Leighton Town next Tuesday.
And Ashton, who has made 59 appearances for the club since joining in March last year, admitted he has been “overwhelmed” by the backing he has received.
“You don’t get that sort of support from many clubs at this level and it was overwhelming really to have the fans and the people there backing me the way they did,” the 25-year-old said.
“All it has done is make me want to get back so that I can start repaying them on the pitch.
“It’s (the knee) getting there.
“I am back on my feet and as I am self-employed, that’s a good thing because it means I can get back to work.
“The question of how long I would be out for was the first I asked the surgeon after the operation and he said two to three months, possibly even longer.
“I guess a lot will depend on how the rehab goes but I will try to be back as soon as I can, although I won’t rush it and do anything stupid.
“But the knee itself already feels a lot stronger.”
Ashton, meanwhile, is confident Diamonds will be challenging for promotion this season.
They suffered their first league defeat of the campaign when they went down 1-0 at Godalming Town last weekend but hit back with a 4-0 success at Aylesbury United last night (Wednesday) to move into third place and within two points of leaders St Ives Town with three games in hand.
And Ashton insists he “would be surprised” if the club don’t maintain their bid for elevation.
He added: “There is no hiding the fact that the club is ambitious and I would be surprised if we are not up there challenging for promotion.
“It’s tough knowing I am not going to be part of it for a while but I will be there supporting the lads when I can.
“And I hope I can return to fitness before the end of the season and still play a role in it.”