POOLE Town defender Michael Walker admitted his injury nightmare had previously left him in a “dark place”.

The influential centre-half has been sidelined for more than 13 months after suffering knee ligament damage during a 3-2 defeat at Concord Rangers last season.

Having finally gone under the knife in the summer, the 34-year-old has stepped up his recovery process during the past two months alongside club physio Ben Hayes.

And Walker revealed his wait for competitive football could be over before the end of Dolphins’ National South campaign.

The former Wimborne Town and Weymouth man told the Daily Echo: “Being 34, I am no spring chicken now. It was getting to the stage in my career where I didn’t need an operation or an injury like this.

“Not playing for more than a year has been challenging but it is something you learn to deal with.

“With an injury like this, a lot of it can be in your head. You have to be strong minded.

“It’s challenging and it takes you to a dark place. You start to think how you are going to get around it and don’t know what to do.

“But you have to get over the obstacles, get on with things and now there is some light at the end of the tunnel.

“I am fortunate that everything is going well. I am going to be stepping up and doing more training with the lads now.

“It will mean everything to me when I do come back. I know inside I will be relieved, it will be nice to put a shirt back on and to play in the league would be great.”

A former Poole skipper, Walker has made 286 appearances for the club and scored 47 goals.

He was present at Black Gold Stadium on Boxing Day as Dolphins suffered a 3-0 defeat to Truro City.

Tom Killick’s men are 20th in National South, with only five league victories coming from 23 games.

“It looks like I am going to have to bring my tin hat when I do come back because we are in the trenches at the moment,” the defender added.

“It’s not nice to see how the boys are getting on. I want to be out there to try to help them out.

“There are times where you have to see a bit of character in players.

“It is all good when you are flying at the top but this is the challenging time, when you are down at the bottom, when you find out what people are all about.

“At the moment, confidence is low but I still believe we can get out of this mess and remain in the league.”

Without the defender, Dolphins will be looking for revenge in their reverse fixture at Truro on New Year’s Day (3pm).

Victory could be enough to take them out of the bottom three.