Watford defender Tommie Hoban accepts his best chance of playing first team football this season may involve leaving the Hornets on loan.

But, as he recovers from injury, playing 45 minutes at Boreham Wood on a cold wet evening suits him down to the ground.

The 22-year-old has spent the last four months in the treatment room at Watford’s London Colney training ground. He’s faced a strict rehabilitation regime following surgery in September on an injury he’d had for several months.

“I was struggling in pre-season with my groin and stomach,” Hoban explains. “I had the pain from about February but I wanted to keep playing and help the team.

"But then the pain just became worse. I thought we could manage it during pre-season but I had to have the operation.”

Hoban’s recovery was expected to only take two months.

That didn’t quite go to plan and the young centre-back only returned to action last week, playing 30 minutes for Watford’s Under-21s and following that up with 45 minutes against Boreham Wood on Tuesday.

Fortunately, or perhaps it should be unfortunately, Hoban is well aware of the time it can take to recover from a long-term injury.

The Republic of Ireland Under-21 captain spent a year out with an ankle injury from February 2014. One that still causes stiffness in the joint from time to time.

Hoban has missed a lot of football for someone so early into their career but he has still managed to make 57 appearances for Watford. However, Hoban admits his development has been hampered.

“The first injury happened at the point where I had just broken into the team so that did hold me back a little,” he says.

“This injury came just as we were starting in the Premier League. I wanted to get into the team and make an impression but obviously I couldn’t do that. So the timing of the injuries hasn’t been great.”

He adds: “In the last four years I’ve probably spent two of them injured. It is tough.

"I am hoping that I’ve had my share of injuries now and as I get older I will be injury free. I would definitely take that. They are a part of football though. You can’t worry them.

“You’ve just got to deal with the cards you’re dealt. You have to work hard and recover from them as best you can. I’ve got plenty of time on my side to improve and develop.

“I think I’ve shown what I can do in the past. I played a lot of games last season and we got promoted. I’ve just got to work hard and prove that I deserve a place in the side.”

That may be easier said than done given the calibre of player Watford have signed since the summer.

Hoban is competing against full internationals in Craig Cathcart and Sebastian Prödl while Miguel Britos has been faultless since breaking into the team earlier this season.

It’s why Hoban accepts a loan move may be his best option. A chance to play games and produce his best form has an obvious appeal.

“A loan move is a possibility but ultimately that isn’t just down to me,” he says.

“It is down to the club as well. I will work hard over the next month to get my fitness levels back up to where they should be.

“After that we will see what the club’s plans are for me. Going out on loan could be an option because it would allow me to play games and hopefully get back to my best.”