Fighting to be fit
DAVID CUFFLEY The queue for the Norwich City treatment room has been whittled down to one this week - and club physiotherapist Neal Reynolds reckons the players can take much of the credit for that.
The queue for the Norwich City treatment room has been whittled down to one this week - and club physiotherapist Neal Reynolds reckons the players can take much of the credit for that.
Skipper Jason Shackell's ankle ligament injury has made him top priority for Reynolds and his team, 10 days ahead of the Canaries' next Championship match at home to Crystal Palace.
But with long-term casualties Jimmy Smith and Mark Fotheringham currently recuperating away from Carrow Road, the physio's workload is lighter than for some weeks.
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Manager Peter Grant had concerns over eight senior players just 48 hours ahead of Saturday's home game against Cardiff, but in the end only Shackell and striker David Strihavka, suffering from a throat infection, failed to make the final 16.
It's a tribute to the healing hands at work at Colney, but Reynolds praised the players for their determination to battle on.
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He said: “We have had our knocks and bumps and bruises and people have been touch and go for games, but most of the players have come through it.
“We must be doing something right. The only long-term ones we have at the moment are Jimmy and Mark, and of course now Jason.
“At the moment we've only got one out of three here, but Mark is back next week.
“Peter will ask early on Thursday morning how the players are for Saturday. For a couple of Tuesdays we have had midweek games and picked up the odd knock and we have to re-assess who is going to be fit for Saturday.
“But as patients, they are all brilliant. They have been as good as gold. Players don't like being injured. They are desperate to get themselves fit and play football and the last thing they want to do is sit in the treatment room.
“They are all motivated. Footballers, especially professional footballers, are desperate to get themselves back in good condition.”
It has been a busy time for the medical team with the list of senior players hit by injury or illness running into double figures since they returned to training in July, but Reynolds said he had known busier times.
He said: “It hasn't been too bad, no more than most other clubs. We've had it a lot worse with eight or nine out at a time.”
On-loan midfielder Smith, who was injured on the tour of Holland, returned to Chelsea for treatment, while Fotheringham, who suffered ankle ligament damage against Southampton, has been granted a short break but returns to Colney next week.
Said Reynolds: “In the case of Jimmy, we have not seen much of him because he's back at Chelsea, but we are in regular contact with them.
“When the loan players get injured, like David Marshall last season, we normally send them back to their own clubs, not because we don't want them here but it's better for them, especially if they're young players away from home.
“When there are long-term injuries like Mark's, initially it can be a depressing situation. It's important that they can spend time with family and come back positive and focused.”
If it's illness rather than injury, there are no chances taken.
“Players are all assessed by the club doctor and if there's anything we think might be contagious we send them home.
“With the current concern over cardiac problems, we are advised if anyone has a virus or a bad cold there is an admittedly very minor danger of it causing problems.”
A completely clean bill of health for the playing staff is a rare luxury indeed.
Said Reynolds: “It's quite strange that your aim is to get everyone fit and have no work, but it very rarely happens. In nine years in football, I've found it's very, very rare.
“People have asked me 'What do you do the rest of the week?' But what people see on a Saturday is only about five per cent of my work.”