MORTON forward Jai Quitongo dragged himself through months 
of arduous rehab work dreaming of hitting the net once again and taking the acclaim of his supporters.

And he announced his comeback in spectacular style with the last-gasp winner last week over Dunfermline and a wonder goal to see off Queen of the South on Saturday.

Not bad for a player who is happy just to be pulling on the boots again after the knee injury that kept him on the sidelines for the best part of a gut-wrenching six months for the 19-year-old.

He struggled to describe the feeling when his audacious effort ripped into the top corner at Palmerston at the weekend, but moments like those are simply the icing on the cake for a footballer who is just enjoying life again.

“It was a good goal, it’s right up there with my one against Hamilton in the Betfred Cup last year,” said Quitongo. “But I’m just grateful to be playing again. It’s great to be back.

“It means everything not just to me, but my family and everyone who is connected to me and helped me along the way.

“Even the surgeon, Gordon McKay, he actually messaged me to say well done, and a few people from Airdrie where I done my rehab, and I owe them a big thanks for letting me go there to do that.

“Michael McLaughlin, the physio, messaged me too, so everybody is happy for me and it makes it well and truly worth those long hours in the gym and all those long nights when I couldn’t get to sleep.

“My pals always say I’ve got it easy and I only train a few hours a day, but it’s only easy because you are doing something you love.

“People don’t see the other side of football where you are putting in the hard work, the fitness work to get into tip-top condition or when you have a bad injury. But all of that work has been well and truly worth it.

“I’m just delighted to be back playing with a smile on my face. That’s the only personal goals I have, to keep playing with a smile on my face and contribute goals and assists to the team.”

THERE is little doubt that manager Jim Duffy was also a valuable source of strength for Quitongo during some of his darker moments.

“The gaffer is one of the best I’ve worked with, and his door is always open if you need to speak to him,” he said.

“He’s been brilliant, and he had a serious knee injury when he played, so his understanding of what I was going through has been brilliant.

“He’s been really influential on me, and he places a lot of belief in me when sometimes gaffers in the past maybe haven’t.

“It’s great for the gaffer to have signed a new deal and it’s a real statement by the club.”

Quitongo believes that his spell out of action may actually be beneficial to him in the long-run, with the player placing more focus on personal improvement since his injury setback.

“It’s funny, but since I’ve come back from my injury I’d say I’m quicker than what I was and a bit stronger too,” he said.

“My awareness of the game is still not the best, but it’s better than it was, so hopefully I can keep catching eyes and pleasing people.

“All I’m really worried about is just playing week-in, week-out and seeing where that takes me.

“It’s the same for the team. We have a bit of momentum now and all we can do is keep putting points on the board.”