After more than two years, three operations, hundreds of hours in the treatment room, and countless setbacks, Ben Gladwin pulled on a Rovers shirt once again last week.

It has taken great mental strength to get himself in to a position to play football again, and says it has only made him appreciate just how much the game means to him during his time away.

Without that, he questions whether he would even have wanted to continue during the months of struggle.

His last competitive action for Rovers came on November 7 2017, a Checkatrade Trophy tie at Rochdale. Gladwin would play no further part in the promotion campaign, or the first year back in the Championship.

Out of contract in the summer, and still weeks from fitness after another setback, Tony Mowbray handed the 27-year-old a deal to continue his rehabilitate at the club’s Brockhall training base.

“If I wasn’t bothered about playing football then I wouldn’t have made it through two years out injured,” said Gladwin, reflecting on his 45 minutes in Rovers’ Premier League Cup win over Burnley.

“All I wanted to do was to get back on the pitch playing football, so hopefully, touch wood, there’s no more injuries and a long career in front of me.

“You find out a lot about yourself as a person and find out just how much you love football and what’s important.

“In those dark times, football does a lot for me. It’s what I love doing so I’m thrilled to be back now.

“I always knew I loved football, but you probably take it for granted at time, putting your boots on and going out to train.

“When you didn’t have a great session you’d have a little moan, but I’ve made a promise to myself now to just enjoy everything."

Gladwin could feature again for the Under-23s when Rovers travel to Arsenal on Friday night.

A decision is due on his longer-term future at the end of the year, but for Gladwin, simply being able to play again is a huge bonus.

But when the operations kept totting up, he says it was more than football on his mind.

He added: “I’ve had a few setbacks, three operations in the end to get myself almost back to full fitness, before needing another one.

“It was tough on the head. All I’ve dreamed of is about playing football again. It’s been so frustrating seeing the lads go out to train every day and my body just hasn’t been able to do it.

“I can’t lie, it’s been really tough and there have been a lot more down days than good days.

“I got myself right back to the points of training again, then I did my knee again on my first day back training.

“For a little while, I knew I needed the operation for my future and to play with my little boy, but it took some convincing to decide that I was going to get back to playing football.”

Much of Gladwin’s rehabilitation last season came alongside that of Dominic Samuel who missed 12 months of action with a knee injury.

Greg Cunningham is now going through a similar process, after his season-ending knee ligament injury, all done under the watchful eye of the Rovers medical team.

And speaking to the club website, Gladwin says the work and support of first-team rehabilitation Ollie Waite hasn’t gone unnoticed.

“I’ve had great people around me,” he said.

“The medical department have been amazing, particularly Ollie who has had to listen to me every day for the past two years, so he deserves a round of applause.

“It’s been tough. It’s a great club, I love the lads and the staff and I’d love nothing more than to get myself fit, flying and contributing on a Saturday.

“I’m so grateful to the club for sticking by me. I’ll always consider it a job, but I want to enjoy it, give everything I’ve got, show everyone what I can do and have no regrets when I finish.”