Kal Naismith is aiming for a goal-scoring finish to the League Two season after a turbulent time.
The Stanley frontman started the season well and was capturing attention from higher placed clubs which he admitted turned his head and affected his shows on the pitch under former boss James Beattie.
He is the first to say his form slipped but then, once the August transfer deadline passed, he was ready to concentrate on his game and show off his skills to the new management team of John Coleman and Jimmy Bell.
However the sudden death of his long-term girlfriend Ashley Dickson in October last year obviously left him devastated and he returned back home to Scotland for a month and has struggled both on and off the pitch since.
While he knows he will never get over it, Kal though now feels he is improving week by week and is ready to push for a starting place and re-find his goalscoring touch on the field .
“It’s been really hard,” said the 23-year-old. “I felt strong at the start of the season, I scored my first goal against Cheltenham but then missed a last minute penalty which would have earned us a draw and it was mixed emotions really.
“I ended up getting dropped and then I started to hear rumours that clubs where interested in me and it unsettled me. You don’t think it does but it does get inside your head and I went through a bad spell.
“As part of my learning curve, I guess this helped me as I know now never to listen to rumours and gossip and just wait for things to be signed before believing them – but I had to go through this to understand it.
“Then the gaffer and Jimmy came in and to be honest it felt like a fresh challenge. Everyone had to try that extra bit harder to impress them, everyone was buzzing as we pressed for places and tried to improve and I loved the challenge of it and the competitiveness of training and matches.”
Just as Kal was getting into his stride, he got the news that Ashley, his girlfriend of eight years, had died suddenly from an epileptic fit and he dashed home to Scotland to be with her and his own family.
“I had never lost anyone close to me and It was hard to deal with – it still is,” said Kal. “It was so difficult to take in. I just couldn’t believe it.
“We spent so many happy times together and spent eight amazing years together and I think back to those and cherish every minute. I know we will be together again but I also have learnt that life can be cruel.
“For the next month, I hardly ate, I spent my time with my family – my mum was amazing – and with Ashley’s mum and her sister, who just lived around the corner from my mum’s in Scotland.
“I couldn’t accept it but eventually my family and Ashley’s persuaded me to return to football and I had to do it as I needed a distraction and need to get back to some kind of normality – even though things would never be normal again.”
Kal paid tribute to the support of friends Andy Halliday, Kyle Hutton and Kane Hemmings and then he returned to East Lancashire where he lives with team-mate Shay McCartan and he says the Irishman has also been his rock.
“He won’t realise it but Shay has been amazing, a great friend. He was the first person I told and I don’t think he will know how much he did for me. He took me out to take my mind off things, he kept me busy and he was superb.
“He knew Ashley and when he scored two against Hartlepool, he text me to say that was for her and it meant such a lot.
“I was buzzing for Shay to be in the team and scoring goals while I was in Scotland – I know what a talent he is and he has grown in confidence with his goals.”
Kal admits since he came back to Accrington, he has struggled, more than he ever realised.
“I was in the team when I left and thought I would come back and play but other players had stepped up – and I wasn’t as fit as I had been. I guess I sulked a bit but all this has helped me grow up and see a bigger picture.
“I now feel I am improving. I am better now than I was two weeks ago and two weeks ago, I was better than I was in the previous two weeks.
“I am someone who puts a lot of pressure on myself but I am learning to take things day by day. I am building up my fitness, I am doing extra sessions and I feel ready again.
“I used to beat myself up if I had a bad training session or missed a chance – the last six months have told me to deal with it and move on. It’s not the end of the world.
“My contract is up at the end of the season but I am confident in my ability and I want to get back in the team and make sure I have a strong end to the season. That first goal back now will be incredible.”