Popular goalkeeper Alex Spackman may not play again after suffering a freak hand injury prior to the training session with his new club Carrick Rangers.
The much-travelled Spackman, whose career has spanned through spells with Linfield, Ballymena United, Crusaders, Cliftonville, Larne and Donegal Celtic, sustained an horrific injury while climbing over a fence to access training grounds near Carrick Rangers' home ground Taylor's Avenue.
The 27-year-old ripped tendons, nerves and severely damaged a muscle below the thumb on his right hand when he slipped and was caught on steel spikes.
He said: "I was running a bit late for a training session and the rest of the squad had already started when I arrived. Instead of going around to the other side of the fencing around the training ground, I attempted to climb over it instead. But when I was at the top I slipped and my hand got caught. The spikes just ripped right through it. I thought at the time I had lost my hand."
After a operation just days ago that required 22 stitches and kept him hospitalised for two days, Spackman was told he may never play football again. He faces several months of rehabilitation.
"At the moment I am unable to open my hand and that may always be the case. I was told to start considering my next move because I might not play in goal ever again. The damage is so extensive it will take several months to recover from treatment and only then can a surgeon determine whether I will have a career."
His injury is a blow to Carrick Rangers' promising manager Stephen Small, who played alongside Spackman during Larne's dramatic 2005 season in which the east-Antrim club reached the Irish Cup final.
But it may prove to be a bigger blow to the player.
He added: "Everyone knows my form hit a low point earlier this season with Donegal Celtic and I was just beginning to enjoy myself again. I was looking forward to a new start with Carrick Rangers but now I'm not sure if I will be able to pull on a goalkeeper gloves again.
"I have been given a 20 per cent chance of playing again and while I'm usually an optimist, I'm preparing myself for the worst case scenario on this occasion. I'm trying to get my head around the fact that I might not play again at a time when I should be looking forward to several more years of action."
Dental technician Spackman will begin rehabilitation work on his hand on Wednesday but is already considering a new venture that will keep him in the game - as a coach.
"I had always intended to study coaching towards the end of my career but that's something I'm going to look at now."