The road to recovery has been long and painful for Ebbsfleet defender Yado Mambo.
Last year was his annus horribilis – released by Charlton in May and then struck by a serious knee injury while on trial with Colchester.
Mambo had to wait a month before undergoing surgery in August and his rehabilitation dragged into the new year.
He said: "It was a long time, one of the worst times I’ve had in football. I was in a really dark place.
"Being a free agent, you don’t get any income, so I had to work. I was working at Waitrose for quite a while, serving people on the counter. I had to do it to get by.
"It was a lonely place but, luckily enough, I’ve got good friends who kept in touch, phoned me, to see how I was."
Mambo was on the up last season. In two loan spells, he made 16 appearances for AFC Wimbledon in League 2 and 15 for Shrewsbury in League 1. But when he got injured, he began to drop off the radar.
He said: "There were other clubs (interested in me) at first but they didn’t know how long I’d be out for. I never knew myself, so I couldn’t give them an exact time. After a few months, all the clubs died down because they thought I’d never get back.
"No-one gave me a chance. I rang a few clubs in January but because I hadn’t played games and hadn’t trained, they weren’t going to waste their budget on me. I needed someone to take a risk, to have faith in me."
That someone turned out to be Ebbsfleet assistant manager Steve Gritt, who used to run Charlton’s academy.
Mambo said: "I’ve known Gritty all my life. He saw me when I was a pup. I call him the Godfather. I texted Gritty to ask if it was all right to come down and he was supportive. He knew what I’d been through."
Read the full interview in the Gravesend Messenger.