Brighton & Hove Albion under-23 defender George Cox highlighted his aim to secure a career-building loan move in January after making a full recovery from heart surgery.
Ahead of his debut season in the Premier League 2 Division 1, Cox returned for training and just weeks later had to undergo surgery to correct abnormal heartbeat patterns, which could have put his life at risk.
He said, “The physios were very good here. They’d dealt with a boy from last year [Conor Goldson] who had something similar. They knew how to get me back in gradually.
“After six weeks I had an exercise test. That was the thing that would tell me whether I could go back into training or whether I would have to wait.
“It was pretty good being told you can go back into training and everything is alright. It was then just a case of getting back up to speed with everyone else after missing pre-season.
“That was quite difficult, and that probably played on my mind more than my heart to be honest. Now I have to push on and make sure I get loans coming for me in January."
Cox has made eight appearances for Simon Rusk’s team since returning to fitness, but he reflected on the emotions he felt when the irregular ectopic beats were first discovered and news of the operation came around.
“Disbelief and disappointment were the main emotions I had at the time — disbelief that I had been playing for god knows how long with it and I hadn't felt anything.
“With a heart operation, they have to tell you the factors of what could happen and that scares you. I was frightened and hoping everything would be okay, but different things go through your head.
“I was wondering whether I would be able to come back quicker and fitter because I was going to miss pre-season. It’s obviously a big year for me because my contract is up at the end of the season.
“The physios here said ‘don’t worry, it will be alright’. I did look at the success rate of ablations and it was quite high — that made me feel a bit better.”
Around three weeks after first being told of the news, Cox prepared himself for surgery and he revealed the worries that were passing through his mind ahead of the procedure.
“I had a meeting the day before with the surgeon. He told me what could happen but he also said he’d done a lot of them and had a 100% success rate.
“He told me he could puncture an artery in my groin and it could affect me playing. But the next day, the other surgeon came down about 15 minutes beforehand and told me something different.
“He told me there was a chance I could die or have a heart attack. I thought ‘mate, I’m going in 15 minutes, are you joking me?’.
“The first one wasn’t too bad because I could get my head round it for the next day, but 15 minutes before, though, I nearly burst into tears. I was panicking so bad.”
Rusk’s team has picked up impressive victories over Chelsea, Benfica and MK Dons since Cox’s return, as the 20-year-old continues to stake his claim for a career-building loan move in the EFL.