Former All White Tommy Smith hopes to make a return to international football after undergoing back surgery to fix nerve damage.

The 26-year-old Ipswich Town defender has not played since 9 September and had to consider the possibility of never returning to the field if the surgery was unsuccessful.

“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,” he said.

“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’.

“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.”

Smith has returned to training in an effort to get fit and hopes to represent New Zealand in the 2017 FIFA Confederation Cup Russia in June.

“I had a good chat with the New Zealand manager Anthony Hudson and we cleared the air because there were a few issues previously,” he 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.”

Smith’s last All Whites appearance was in 2014 when he captained New Zealand against Mexico in the 2014 FIFA World Cup intercontinental play-off. New Zealand lost 5-1 in the away match and 4-2 in front of a home crowd in Wellington.

New Zealand’s next clash is against Fiji in March as part of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ Stage Three Qualifiers.