The former All Whites defender Tommy Smith says he feared for his career after undergoing back surgery to fix nerve damage.
The 26-year-old Ipswich Town player has not played since September 9th because of the injury.
"I had to quickly get my head around it, took myself off for five minutes and shed a tear because any operation's a major operation," said Smith.
"The doctor said there's a 90% chance it would be successful. I asked about the other 10% and he said 'you might never play again'."
Smith said "That hit home at the time but thankfully the operation went really well and since then it's been about slowly building up the muscles."
The centre-back is currently spending extra time at the training ground in a bid to get fit, while at the same time writing his dissertation for a Sports and Exercise Science degree through Manchester Metropolitan University.
Smith, capped 29 times by New Zealand, was previously told by his international manager he would not be selected to represent the All Whites because of his lack of his commitment.
But he is now back in the international fold and, if fit, could feature in June's Confederations Cup in Russia.
"I had a good chat with the New Zealand manager Anthony Hudson and we cleared the air because there were a few issues previously," Smith said.
"I'm really looking forward to being back involved. It's a privilege and an honour every time I pull on the shirt for the All Whites."
He last played for the All Whites in 2014.