DAVE ARTELL could be forgiven for thinking the football gods are conspiring against him.
The 24-year-old is resigned to sitting out tomorrow's League Two opener at Peterborough United as he fights back to full fitness following a pre-season wrecked by injury and a messy, drawn-out transfer from Mansfield Town.
It was the last thing Artell needed having come through an injury ordeal that started with an Achilles problem and quickly developed into deep vein thrombosis.
The unprecedented run of bad luck means Artell has not played a competitive first-team game since last November - so he's understandably keen to pull on his new club's colours for a league game sooner rather than later.
'It's frustrating but I'm not going to do the team - or myself - any justice by playing on Saturday when I'm not 100% fit,' said the Rotherham-born centre-back, who made his City debut in the friendly win at Rainworth last month before being struck down with injury again.
'I've had eight months of watching matches last season. You can watch one or two but in the end it's horrible. When I was in Cornwall with Chester watching the lads in pre-season, I felt like slitting my wrists!'
Everything had been going well for Artell last season, with the defender figuring in 23 games for the Stags before his injury nightmare began to unfold.
'I played my last game last November and had an operation on my Achilles in December,' explained Artell. 'Two weeks after that, the wound came open because of the pressure on my leg.
'It was stitched back up but the following week I had pins and needles in my leg. Eventually I bit the bullet and went to hospital - which was more because of pressure from my wife than anything.
'It was a good job I did because the blood clot was going up my leg and it could have gone anywhere.
'I had two blood clots in my leg and if they travelled further up my body, they could have got to my lungs or my heart and I wouldn't have been stood here!'
Artell was put on a drip and kept in hospital for a week. It was a further eight weeks before he was even allowed to kick a ball due to the medication he was taking.
'My blood was that thin that if I'd taken a challenge, I'd have started bleeding inside,' he revealed.
Blues boss Keith Curle refers to Artell as a 'head it, kick it' defender, and the lengths the former Mansfield boss went to in order to sign the player is a testament to how highly he regards him.
Paying an undisclosed five-figure sum for someone who hasn't played since last November would be seen as a gamble by some - but not by Curle who built his defence around Artell when he was in charge at Mansfield.
Artell's path from Field Mill to the Saunders Honda Stadium, however, was far from smooth.
Mansfield were understandably reluctant to let the player leave when Chester tabled a substantial cash offer during the close-season, but Curle was determined to get his man.
Weeks of uncertainty followed and matters reached an almost farcical level when the Blues finally unveiled 'new signing' Artell to the Press - only for Mansfield chairman Keith Haslam to insist no deal had been done.
Haslam even threatened to report the Blues to the Football League over their conduct during the transfer saga, which was finally brought to a satisfactory conclusion when Artell was signed for an undisclosed five-figure sum last month.
The whole affair left a bitter taste in the former Rotherham and Shrews-bury defender's mouth.
'I told Mansfield I wanted to play for a club I thought was going to be successful,' he explained. 'Carlton Palmer (the Mansfield manager) took umbrage to that and treated me like a leper.
'I wasn't allowed to train with the first team or the youth team. In the end, it was just untenable. Carlton Palmer told me I'd never play for the club again, then he ended up asking me to stay! It wasn't about money - I just wanted to look after my family.
'I couldn't wait to get to Chester. I knew it was a family club and I knew the manager from my time at Mansfield. He knew what I had to offer. It just made sense.'