AS EACH week of life under Covid-19 lockdown folds into a new one and we live in a world where time hardly matters, Darren Petrie still had plenty of cause to celebrate when he looked to the calendar last week.

Friday marked seven weeks since the 24-year-old had long-awaited surgery at the Forth Valley Royal Hospital to repair damaged ligaments which ended his playing career just over a year ago.

Forced to retire at the age of just 23 and with doubts he'd ever even play with his mates again, it means there is finally some light at the end of the tunnel for the player who spent his whole career giving his all every second he was on the pitch.

This is just a new challenge for the former Stirling Albion man. But, while he knows there are going to bumps on the road to recovery, he finally has some real hope he can defy the odds.

"I was really glad and fortunate to have my surgery and get out on the same day," Petrie told Advertiser Sport. "I was even up and down a flight of stairs just two hours after it.

"They said I could then go home, which was great as that is what I wanted. I'm now back at the house and Lucy [Petrie's girlfriend] has been here looking after me.

"She took some time off her work, but even when she as back she would pop up at lunch and make me something to eat. I've definitely been spoiled.

"I've been gradually getting there and improving all the time and now it feels good that I am improving. I am glad I had the surgery.

"It's not just for my football but also for my work.

"The ligament that goes through the middle of my knee was completely snapped. They had to take a bit of my hamstring and use that to put my ligament back together.

"My meniscus cartilage had a big tear in the middle, which was unrepairable. So they removed that at the same time.

"When I got the surgery, the surgeon told me there is a 70 per cent chance I can get back playing. It is quite high, but I know I need to take it step-by-step and gradually improve.

"Hopefully, I will be able to get back to a position where I can start to play or even get the chance to join in training.

"It would let me show them my experience and help the boys learn off me and not just ability but from my attitude.

"I was a player who always wanted to win and you always need them in your team. Hopefully, that can rub off on the boys in training."

He added: "I've been going out walking and doing the best I can. It is frustrating, but I am getting there and just need to keep building it up.

"Hopefully, I can build it into a jog and then a cycle and get stronger every day.

"It was actually quite soon after it that I was able to start getting out and about and much quicker than anyone expected.

"But, I then hit a bit of a plateau and you do feel yourself not getting better, which is quite weird. I was at that stage for a few weeks.

"I could feel myself improving quite fast at the start and then I just stalled. Now, it is getting to the point where it does feel good but not quite strong enough yet.

"It is definitely frustrating, but there are worst things going on in the world at the moment. Everyone is the in the same boat and we just need to bite the bullet and, hopefully, it is over soon."

When life does return to some sort of normality and football talk stops feeling trivial in the grand scheme of things, Petrie knows he will return for next season a very different coach than the one who began last after a whirlwind year off the Beechwood Park pitch.

First, Iain Diack left the club in the summer. Then, Martin Mooney lasted barely a few months before family matters ended his brief spell in Clacks. Step forward Darren Cummings and Petrie, who were tasked with steering Sauchie through some difficult waters with little coaching experience between them.

Later, Fraser Duncan and Davie Beaton returned to steady the ship and ultimately guided Sauchie to Premier Division safety. It's a year Petrie will never forget, but he knows he has become a better coach because of it all.

"It has been different [coaching as opposed to playing]," he said. "Not what I would have pictured it as and I have really enjoyed it. There is still that side of me that misses it.

"Maybe when you are at training and can't quite take part or when you are getting ready on a Saturday and the feeling is still there. You are buzzing for the game but you are not going out to play.

"You are instead giving people advice of how to go out and play and it is a great feeling when they win and take on what have been saying.

"There are mixed emotions, but it one of these things you need to get on with and not look at in a negative way. Life goes on.

"Since Fras and Davie have come in, I have changed the way I look at football. It has been a massive help and we are all rubbing off on each other really well.

"It is quite hard when there are five of us and we all have different opinions. But, we seem to manage it quite well with the personalities we have."