The Courier

‘Dark moments’ have passed for St Johnstone’s Brian Easton as he nears a comeback

Brian Easton.

2018 came and went without Brian Easton playing a single game of competitive of football for St Johnstone.

And it also included some “dark moments” when the left-back thought his substitute appearance at the end of December the year before would be his last at McDiarmid Park, or indeed any stadium.

Aborted comebacks drain the optimism from even the most positive of athletes.

Love of the game and the support of his colleagues, however, made sure those moments were fleeting and now there is genuine cause for Easton to believe that he will make his return from injury in 2019.

“Hopefully I’m not too far away,” the former Dundee and Hamilton defender reported.

“The plan is to get back to light training in the first week we come back and hopefully full training in the second week.

“Then we’d look to get a few reserve games in.

“I’ve learned over the last year not to take anything for granted, though.

“I feel very positive about it this time.

“It’s all hindsight but when I’ve broken down in the past, maybe I wasn’t ready.

“This time it’s been done slowly. Everything’s been very calculated and has been determined by how I’m feeling.

“There isn’t a timeline that I’ve got to stick to week on week.

“Since the last time I pulled out I’ve had two injections and they’ve helped a lot.

“Every couple of days we’re doing stress-testing on my groins and seeing that go well has been a real positive.

“Hopefully we’ve cracked it.

“Last year certainly wasn’t a great one for me. I really want to make a go for it in 2019 and hopefully everything will keep going well.”

There are no shades of grey for the 30-year-old when he looks back on 2018.

“Without doubt it’s been the worst year of my life,” he admitted. “It’s been tough.

“I love playing football and it’s hard to sit in the stands and watch.

“What has made it worse is coming back and breaking down a few times. The disappointment of that and knowing that all the fitness work and rehab will have to be done again is tough mentally. That’s happened a few times.

“Even when you’re away from football it’s always on your mind.

“I’ve found it hard to switch off. It’s the thing that stops you from getting to sleep when you’re lying in bed at night.

“Quite a few times – when I’ve broken down or I’ve been back doing the same thing in the gym – you do think – ‘I can’t do this anymore’.

“There have been a few dark moments.

“I don’t think I’d ever say ‘enough is enough’ though. This is the best job in the world. I love playing football and I love being in this environment.

“There are times when you think ‘I’ll just give this one more go’. I don’t think I’d ever say ‘that’s enough’.”

Brian Easton’s last game for Saints.

Long-term injuries are as much a part of football as penalty kicks and own goals. Drey Wright is sidelined with one at the moment. The difficulty for Easton has been the stop-start recovery and the lack of a definitive finishing line.

“It started off with a knee injury and I already had problems around my pelvis and groins,” he recalled. “We were talking two months for the knee injury and while that was getting sorted we’d sort out the other stuff.

“There was never a set time but you were always thinking about a couple of months. It hasn’t worked out that way.

“The last game I played was about this time – when I came on for the second half against Dundee.

“Looking back, something wasn’t right. At the time you just get through it and hope it’s aches and pains.”

Easton certainly hasn’t wanted for support during his ordeal.

“The boys have been brilliant,” he said.

“They’ll pick me up when they can see I’ve not had the best of days.

“Guys like Steven Anderson. When you’re out doing your running by yourself, he’ll come and run alongside you. That’s the sort of boys we’ve got here.

“It’s not doom and gloom all the time because it’s a really positive place.

“The gaffer has been the same. There have been a few times when he’s phoned and said ‘look, just take the weekend off because I can tell you’re not right’.

“Speaking to the likes of James McCarthy (his team-mate at Hamilton) has helped. He had a bad leg break.

“And there have been plenty of my old team-mates. Cuptie was in a couple of months ago and we had a talk. Chris Millar and Steven MacLean the same. They’re always there to chat. I’ve definitely not been short.

“It’s what you would expect from the type of guys we’ve had here and still have here.

“When I saw Lee Wallace come on for Rangers recently that was a boost. He’s gone through something similar – coming back and breaking down a few times.”

When Easton does return, chances are it will be into a Saints squad challenging for a top six place or higher.

“Things are going great in the league,” he said.

“It’s tight at the top and we’re right in amongst it. Hopefully we’ve set ourselves up for a really good second half of the season.

“In pre-season the squad was looking a bit thin with the boys we’d lost but there were a few good signings made and as the season’s gone on you could see we had a really strong squad.

“I’m just dying to be a part of it. There are some boys who I’ve never played with.”