Ronan Curtis on Portsmouth future: "I love the club to pieces. It won't be easy to leave if it does come to that."
The former Derry City frontman was dealt a cruel blow when he sustained an 'horrendous' anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury in Pompey's 3-1 win against Bolton Wanderers last February.
With his contract expiring this summer it was the worst possible timing for the seven-times capped Ireland international.
Having undergone successful keyhole surgery on his left knee, the striker is well on his road to recovery and he revealed he's actually 'ahead of schedule' with a potential return to action before the end of the year.
The 27 year-old has spent the last five years at Fratton Park since making the move from Brandywell, making over 200 appearances during his time on the south coast.
He's established himself as a fans' favourite having written himself into the club's history books by becoming Portsmouth's top goalscorer in the 21st century - netting 57 goals!
As one of the club's longest serving players among its current ranks, Curtis admits Portsmouth has been 'amazing' for him and his family, claiming it 'won't be easy to leave if it does come to that'.
It's understood manager John Mousinho and the club have opened discussions with the player and his representatives about potentially extending his stay. While there’s arguably a moral obligation to oversee Curtis’ rehabilitation long beyond that expiry date, Pompey’s Sporting Director Rich Hughes is adamant any new terms would be purely a footballing decision.
‘I wouldn’t say it was a moral-based decision, it’s part of a footballing decision,” Hughes told Portsmouth News this week. “He was affecting the team and performing well under John, so there was an opportunity to potentially tie him down.
‘As a club, we have entered into a conversation with his agent, we want to put something in front of him that gives security to get through his initial injury and then to a point where he’s fit and able to affect the team again."
Curtis certainly appears keen on extending his stay: "I'm a fans' favourite there," explained Curtis. "I've been there five years and it's been an amazing club for myself and my family. It's not going to be easy for me to leave if it does come to that.
"I love the club to pieces but it's still ongoing and we'll just see the outcome in the next couple of weeks or months and see what happens."
Curtis is confident he will come back stronger than before with his rehabilitation going to plan.
"When you're playing week in, week out you don't really spend that much time in the gym and now I've got nine months to spend in the gym which will make it better and better."
The ex-Candy Stripe was back at the Brandywell, where it all began for him during his debut season in 2015, watching Ruaidhri Higgins' team clinch a 3-0 win over Dundalk on Monday night. He's kept in touch with the club and some of his former teammates since making his six-figure cross-Channel transfer.
One such relationship has been extremely beneficial as Derry midfielder Ciaron 'Jackie' Harkin has helped him come to terms with the early stages of his ACL injury. 'Jackie' sustained a recurrence of his ACL during a training session last September and he's been on hand to offer some advice.
"It's horrendous," said Curtis when asked about his injury. "A few of my mates have been through it like 'Jackie' and I've been speaking to them and obviously I was coming out of contract at the same time so that was no good.
"I didn't even think it was an ACL injury when it happened because I played on for a good 10 or 15 minutes afterwards. I was just hoping it was a little knock or something but I got the bad news and it was a hard one to take. "I'm on the road to recovery now. I've seven and half months to go and I'm getting fitter and stronger every day.
"You can't rush back from it. I'm doing all the right things and I'm ahead of schedule so that's what the physios have been saying so it looks good and I'm happy."
Curtis, who signed for Derry from Kildrum Tigers, was delighted to be back to take in a game on Monday. He keeps a close eye on proceedings on Foyleside and he reckons the best is yet to come from the title chasing Candy Stripes this season.
"Yeah it's been a long time since I was here playing but it's my hometown so I come back every time I can to take in a couple of games, so it's nice to get back.
"They won the FAI Cup last year obviously which was a bonus for them and the amount of fans travelling down there was amazing. I think we can do better this season. We haven't really got going yet but none of the other top teams have really either, Rovers and Bohs. They're doing well.
"They have big players like Mickey Duffy and 'Fats' (Patrick McEleney) and (Will) Patching so they're doing well. I keep an eye on them and I think the longer the league goes on I think they'll push.
"There's a lot more to come from them and you have the boys that are injured, the likes of Jackie, so they have a good squad and good group of players to do well."