Mathew Cudjoe could have been forgiven for licking his wounds after dropping out of the Dundee United side due to one moment of madness and an untimely injury.
Instead, he hit the gym.
Cudjoe, 20, enjoyed a sensational start to the season with the Tangerines, registering six goal contributions – rippling the net three times, and teeing up another three – in his opening eight games.
However, the gifted Ghanaian received a red card after lashing out at Calum Waters in a 1-1 draw against Morton on September 16, sidelining him for two games. A dead leg then kept him out for another couple of weeks.
In the meantime, Kai Fotheringham produced a scintillating run of form to cement his place on the right wing, forcing Cudjoe to bide his time after returning to the fold.
And the diminutive forward has reacted in a positive manner, redoubling his efforts to get into fighting shape and battle for a place in Goodwin’s starting XI.
“When I was not in the team, my agent booked a personal trainer for me,” Cudjoe told Courier Sport. “So, I was trying to impress the coach in training, but also working hard to be the best I could be.
“I wanted to make sure that, when I did come back into the team, I would be able to help my teammates and coach, and – in the end – lift this (Championship) trophy. That is the most important thing.
“I worked hard on my legs! To get them stronger and be able to run faster and have more power. I did some upper body work too because you need to be strong in this league.
“When I went back to Ghana in the summer, I also worked very hard and trained so much. That is just a part of me, who I am.”
Back to his best
Following a bright cameo in the prior defeat to Raith Rovers, Cudjoe did earn a start against Queen’s Park last Friday night; his first in the league since that dismissal against the Ton.
In common with everyone else in green, it was not a vintage showing – but he was unlucky not to win a penalty in the first period following an intrepid burst into the box and was bright on the rare occasions he cut inside.
And Cudjoe has no doubt he can rediscover the form that thrilled Arabs earlier this term.
Mathew Cudjoe has started the season in electric form ⚡️
— SPFL (@spfl) August 14, 2023
“It has been a difficult time for me,” he continued. “When you have a red card and then an injury, you need to sacrifice yourself and understand the situation. It is a test of your mentality.
“I think I am getting back to my best and hopefully this week I can be better again. I am building back to my top levels.
“On Friday (against Queen’s Park), I was trying to do a lot of positive running, tracking back, and trying to be creative to help the team.
“I want to get back to my form at the start of the season. I was scoring goals, setting up goals and, after my injury problem, I believe I can show everyone that quality again.”
Total title belief
Cudjoe will hope to retain his place when United host Partick Thistle on Friday night.
There is little room for error, with Raith Rovers now boasting a five-point advantage at the summit of the Championship, albeit United have a game in hand at Morton.
“I hope to start again, but it all depends on the coach and what happens in training,” he continued. “All I ever want is to be in the team and helping the boys on the pitch.
“We look forward to Friday and we have confidence we can still achieve our aims.
“If the season was almost finished you might say, “sure, this is a problem”. But we are in December, and anything can happen, and I believe we will win it, 100 per cent.”