Imagine the devastation of moving club in search of first-team opportunities, only to suffer an injury that keeps you sat on the sidelines for more than a year.
That is exactly what happened to Tessel Middag after she completed her move from Manchester City to West Ham in July 2018.
However a torn anterior cruciate ligament, similar to the injury that kept England’s Jordan Nobbs out of the summer World Cup, would see the 26-year-old miss the entire 2018/19 season.
Middag was forced to look on as the Hammers enjoyed the most successful season in their history finishing seventh in the WSL and making their first FA Cup final appearance – albeit a 3-0 defeat her former team.
But despite the obvious progress in her absence, manager Matt Beard has kept his faith in Middag and handed her a long overdue debut in West Ham’s 2019/20 curtain-raiser - a 2-1 defeat to champions Arsenal – 14 months after joining the club.
“It was very frustrating because as a professional footballer you just want to play - being forced to watch from the sidelines is not something that you want,” said Middag, who won the WSL title with Manchester City before moving to Rush Green.
“I just enjoy being on the pitch on a daily basis with my teammates and that is what I have been missing for the last two years.
Great to have our first win today!! Next home match is at the London Staduim against spurs make sure your there to cheer us on! ⚒⚒ https://t.co/vxjtEdwie7— Jack Sullivan (@jsullivanwhu) September 15, 2019
“I am so excited to be back now, not just for me personally but for the club as a whole, because we are ready to push on from last season now.
“For the first part of my rehab I was treated back home in Holland but then from February onwards I was at the club full-time and trained individually with the medical team.
“I got to know the girls really well during that time.
“It’s an incredible time to be involved in women’s football in this country and that is down to pioneering work from all the clubs and the FA.”
Middag has won 44 caps for Holland after making her debut back in 2012 and suffered her injury whilst away on international duty but was unable to recover in time to feature for the OranjeLeeuwinnen at the World Cup.
There was some light at the end of the tunnel as, like Nobbs, the midfielder took on a media role during over the summer making regular TV appearances back in her home country.
Again Middag was forced to watch from a distance as her team once again lost in a final – this time Holland were beaten 2-0 by USA – but the media opportunities that arose of the back of her injury her a more positive outlook on the overall experience.
And the resurgent Dutchwoman has commemorated the new season with a change of squad number, trading in her unworn No 6 jersey in favour of the No 23, and a brand new contract to signify the start of a clean slate.
“I also missed out on going to the World Cup with my country too so that was very tough to take but now I am just looking forward to being fully involved in football and enjoying my comeback,” Middag added.
“I watched the final at home with my family but then the morning after I flew straight to London to start pre-season.
“But I actually had a lot of TV work this summer back home which was a good thing because I had to watch every game very closely.
“I don’t feel so bad about the World Cup and I try to look at it from a positive angle now that it is over because I enjoyed my summer.
“I am hoping that in the future my injury will have opened more doors for me with media work which I now know that I really enjoy.”