Partick Thistle midfielder Gary Fraser has just emerged from the most difficult period of his career, but his biggest challenge may now lie ahead as he tries to earn a new contract at Firhill.

The 23-year-old kicked his first ball for the club since April of last year when he came off the bench against Rangers at Ibrox on Saturday.

Thistle may have been trailing by three goals to nil at the time, but it was still a massive moment for Fraser having fought his way back through so many lonely months of rehab.

He is determined to repay the faith shown in him by manager Alan Archibald, who awarded him a six-month contract in the summer despite his lengthy lay-off.

And with that deal expiring in January, Fraser is now setting his sights on proving that he deserves to stay at the club, and that he is ready to once again make a real contribution to the Thistle cause.

“I’ve got so much to be thankful for, and so many people that I want to repay for helping me through this,” said Fraser.

“The physio Marcin Szostak was unbelievable, and the manager and Scotty were absolutely different class.

“I feared for my future, there’s no doubt about that, and the club would have been well within their rights to not offer me anything. The fact that they wanted to look after me and give me a chance to get fit again speaks volumes for the management team and the board.

“This is a special place. I owe them all so much and I don’t know how I can repay them. The only thing I can do is go out there and do the absolute best that I can every day for this football club.

“My aim now is to earn another contract. I would love to stay here so that I can give something back on the field for all the support they’ve given me off of it.”

Just as he was coming to terms with the prospective length of his lay-off, Fraser lost the man he described as his best pal, and the person who would have been able to help him through it most.

But he reckons it was fate that his first game back was at Ibrox, and he is sure his Grandad John would have been looking down on him with a knowing smile.

“My friends and family were brilliant, picking me up when I needed it,” he said. “My grandad was great at that, but sadly he’s no longer around.

“He was a Rangers fan, although he was a Partick Thistle fan later on because I was there, and he would have been looking down on me coming back there and having a wee smile I’m sure.

“I thought about him earlier in the day, and just had a feeling that it would be the day for me to get on.

“The manager was laughing because he said that when he shouted me to get stripped it was the fastest he had ever seen me move. I was round to the halfway line in about three seconds.

“What a feeling it was. To get back out there just means the world to me.

“It’s been a long road with some dark times, but it’s all worth it in the end when you get back out there with the boys and get back to doing what you love.”

Fraser now can’t wait for the moment that he and his friend Stuart Bannigan turn out together in the Thistle midfield again, having helped each other through their respective injury nightmares.

“Banzo was great for me during the time we were out together, and I was the happiest man in the world for him when he got back,” he said.

“What a player he is. Any team would miss him. I know he’s had a wee setback, but he’ll be back in no time and I can’t wait to line up on the same pitch with him again. That will be a special moment."