Former Western Sydney Wanderers striker Kerem Bulut spoke on Wednesday (AEDT) of the talent he still possesses while battling through a long suspension.
27-year-old Bulut is currently serving a four-year ban from football handed down by the Turkish FA last May for a positive drug test.
It came after he admitted to cocaine use at a party while employed by Turkish third division club Menemen Belediyespor.
In a lengthy interview with Fox Sports, he spoke about the pain of not playing football, his hopes of reducing his long ban, and his bid to shed the "bad boy" image he has in Australia.
“I was going through a bad stage in my life. I had a lot of problems, and I was in a dark hole. It was a one-off thing - a mistake, and I paid the price for it, the hardest possible way,” said Bulut.
“I am trying to get a reduction so I can get my life back on track. But I have never been convicted of anything. I have always been portrayed as being this gangster, but it isn’t true.
“I want to play in the A-League to prove my point to people here. Prove that I have changed, that it’s not just words.
“I know I have the talent there, and it hurts me to watch the Socceroos because I played with a lot of those boys. We’re short on strikers, and I still think I could be that man.”
Australia's PFA have received notification from FIFA regarding the ban, but say they are waiting for details from the Turkish FA before deciding what action to take. Which means Bulut, in the meantime, can only wait and train.
“I want a little bit of hope, because I am really down and out at the moment. I am training myself, but there is only so much you can do when at the back of your mind you are thinking about a four-year ban,” he said.
“I can’t sleep at night. Football is the only thing I know.
“Without it, I don’t know what I will do. I know this is my last chance.
“I haven’t had a lot of contact with people here in Australia — although Tim Cahill sent me messages of support.
“I didn’t really want to speak to people because I was embarrassed. But now, I need to go public and ask for help.
He says he's even considering having some of his tattoos removed in a bid to change the public perception of him.
“My mum said to me ‘please son, that’s enough of the face tattoos — go and get them lasered off’.
“I have been thinking about it. I am sick of the bad boy image. I will still be the same person — but maybe for people who don’t know me, it might just change their thoughts about me.
“When they see me now, they think I’m a thug.