Academy ace feels first-team bow was his reward for battling through a challenging period...
THIBAUD VERLINDEN admits he questioned his long-term future in the game during what he describes as an extremely challenging period on the sidelines.
The Belgian youngster made his long-awaited maiden senior start during the goalless draw with Reading prior to the international break, and produced an impressive performance which was capped by him being named as the sponsor’s man of the match.
However, speaking to this weekend’s latest edition of #pottersmag, the 19-year-old has revealed that he was forced to plough through some incredibly difficult times prior to being handed his senior opportunity by boss Nathan Jones.
“It has been an incredibly difficult period for me, I won’t lie. Sometimes I was sat at home, on my own, thinking is this ever going to work out for me,” he said ahead of Saturday’s Championship showdown with Sheffield Wednesday.
“Obviously because I was out for seven months, it was a pretty serious injury, and when you pick up an injury of that severity you do have all kinds of things going through your head."
“The fact that when I came back from that injury I was having further setbacks at U23 level didn’t help either.
“Being alone in a different country away from your family can be difficult, especially during difficult times, and then when my dad moved back to Belgium it was even more difficult.
“But I managed to get over it, and work through it and now I am more optimistic than I have ever been before.”
He added: “That said, I know that there is so more work ahead of me if I want to have an opportunity of establishing myself as a regular here at the Club.”
Verlinden also reserved special praise for Academy U23 management duo Kevin Russell and Wade Elliott, as well as former U23 boss Glyn Hodges, for the roles they played in ensuring he was able to overcome his off-field difficulties.
“Kev was the U18 manager when I joined here, and he and Glyn Hodges were both been so important to me,” the Belgian went on to say.
“Kev and Wade more recently have been so good with me when I was struggling with the mental side of things, so I can’t thank them enough for that."
“As I touched upon earlier, if you are on your own and you are struggling then it can be a really difficult thing to go through, but thankfully, I had great support from them and many other people, and am in a really good place at the moment - so long may that continue.”
To read the full interview with the Potters forward make sure you pick up a copy of this weekend’s matchday magazine, which will be on sale outside the stadium and inside the official stadium store, priced at just £3.50.