England goalkeeper Jack Butland admitted he doubted he would play again after his injury nightmare.
The 24-year-old has returned after a year-long lay-off from a broken ankle he suffered on England duty in March 2016.
Stoke star Butland was carried off during his fourth cap against Germany, forcing him to miss Euro 2016 and the majority of last season’s Premier League campaign.
He also suffered set-backs after the first two operations failed to fix his stress fracture but returned for the last five games of the season.
Butland has been called up for the World Cup qualifier against Scotland on Saturday and next week’s friendly in France but conceded he thought he may not even play again.
He said: “You reach sometimes when you’re at the lowest and times when you don’t know if you are going to play again or when the next injection or operation might be. There are sometimes when you are at rock bottom.
“That’s when you need people around you, at the club, the fans, little tweets on social media to give you some reassurance. I feel I have experienced pretty much everything I can in football, winning, losing, the injury side and all the set-backs.
“I’m sure there’s more to experience but I’m prepared for whatever’s next.
“For me it was the drive and belief to get back. I wanted to make up for all the lost time, missing the Euros, missing so many Premier League games, getting back playing with friends and team-mates and making my family proud again.”
Joe Hart remains England’s number one and Butland’s best chance of his fifth cap will come against France next week but he remains philosophical over his role in the international pecking order.
“I’m wherever I can get myself to and wherever the manager places me right now. I’m just happy to be back in the squad,” he said.
“I understand I’ve played five Premier League games this season but feel I’ve produced good performances. I don’t just settle, I’m happy to be back in the squad but I want to be a part of things.
“Whatever rank or position I end up in coming into the games Saturday and Tuesday, I’ll accept but I’ll back whoever is in front or behind me.”
But Butland still has ambitions to become the best despite his long lay-off which has seen Tom Heaton and Jordan Pickford emerge as contenders for England in his position.
“I want to be not just the best I can be but the best in the world, I want to play for the best in the world and with the best in the world,” he said.
“I want to look back on my career and have won things and have been part of successful teams. Winning things on your own is no fun. I dream about regularly winning things, winning European Championships and World Cups with England.
“As any young player if you can be part of something that can inspire the next generation, that is the ultimate.”