Fulham's fit-again forward Barry Hayles has revealed his spine injury was so serious that doctors warned he might never have walked again without surgery.
The former carpenter, 30, made his comeback from a five-month lay-off in Tuesday's 4-0 reserve-team victory against Leicester City at the Walkers Stadium.
Hayles played for the first 45 minutes and set up Luke Cornwall's opener. But the former Stevenage and Bristol Rovers front man, a firm favourite with the Fulham fans, also recalled the moment he was given a worrying assessment in November.
"My neck really tightened up after the Bury game and I knew something was quite badly wrong," he said. "When I saw the specialist, he explained the situation and told me my spine was under pressure. He said I had to have treatment to make sure I could do things like walk in future."
Hayles, who has two weeks' training behind him, is targeting the west London derby with Chelsea a week on Saturday for his return to the first team.
"I was originally aiming to be back for pre-season in late June but I'm back now," he added. "I hope to make it back for two or three first-team games before the end of the season.
"The neck will always be stiff, but just something that'll have to be treated along the way now. It won't hold me back."