Monday, 4 June 2007

Road To Recovery

Probably the most heart-warming article you will read all summer...

Ashton next in line for the physio who fixed Owen

By Lee Clayton

Jumping, sprinting, stretching, pushing, recovering. A new, improved Dean Ashton will soon appear at a football ground near you. Remember Ashton? The FA Cup Final of 2006, 13 long months ago, was his last game. It's a whole season since he was picked in the England team to play against Greece in Steve McClaren's first international. New England coach, new centre forward to lead the line. Then, the day before his debut, Ashton broke his left ankle on the training ground. Last Friday, as England were preparing to face Brazil, Ashton was completing his sixth day of intense training in a week.

There will be no summer holiday and while Saturdays are currently his day off, he's not keen on the rest. "I've had a season-long holiday," he said. "Now I just want to get back to work, doing the things I have missed, like shooting. You don't realise how much a striker enjoys shooting, until he can't." Hired to restore him to the front line is freelance physio John Green, the man responsible for the new-look Michael Owen and Kieron Dyer. Now Ashton is his patient and they will work one-on-one throughout the summer to give West Ham back their centreforward.

So Ashton's pre-season is under way now, in early June, and he has great faith in his personal physio. "You only have to look at how fantastic Michael looks, considering the injuries he has had. I have massive confidence in John, too, and that he will get me back a better player than before. "I want to come back quicker, stronger, fitter. People have labelled me a bit slow, a bit big; I want to come back and show that I'm strong, quick, fit and add that to my technical game and my footballing brain. I want to be a better athlete."

Green, who was West Ham's physio for 15 years, added: "It's not just a case of rehabilitating the ankle. Dean wants me to work with him holistically, he wants me to make him quicker and stronger while maintaining his mobility. We are also working on nutrition, as well as upper body strength. Things are looking good."

Some positive news, then, for West Ham after a season packed with misfortunes. "I've been like the Invisible Man around this club, ghosting in and then ghosting out again. I've read some books, watched some games. I stopped coming to the matches because it was so very difficult, feeling helpless," recalled Ashton. "There has been a hell of a lot going on around here. Since I last played everything has changed — the board, the manager, the players. The lads joke that there is so much going on, this club is a bit like EastEnders."

Ashton, with a broad northern accent that echoes around the empty dining room at Chadwell Heath training ground, is grateful for Green's company in the lonely struggle to return to fitness. "It's hard to cope when you are injured long-term," said Green. "You are often left to yourself because the nature of a medical team within a football club is that they are under pressure. I've been through relegation and promotion. I know it is easy to be distracted. The board want a medical update, the manager wants to know if his midfielder will be fit in time, a training injury may require instant treatment. I've been affected by that and regretted the impact it has had on a player's health and care. You can't help it, because the short-term injuries are the priority. Can you get the player fit for Saturday? The long-term injured suffer as a result of that. It happens at all clubs. That's where a nomadic physio works. He can come in and fight fires — and then disappear. It worked for Newcastle, with Kieron and Michael, where I was able to give them that one-on-one attention, to help them recover fitness and hopefully to prevent future injuries. It's great to see them both back, now it's time to concentrate on Dean."

Green describes his new patient as ‘absolutely first class, very driven and interested in what we are doing.' Ashton, who required a second operation to clear scar tissue around the injured ankle, now has his goal in sight. "I don't remember much about the tackle that injured me, I wouldn't place any blame on Shaun Wright-Phillips. I was devastated, it was my dream to play for my country and I was feeling the best I had ever felt. To go from that to not being able to walk . . . There is no secret to trying to cope with a long-term injury. It's horrible, simple as that. Some days you feel fine, other days it's the worst thing in the world. You have to keep away from the thought of not playing."

Ashton could not watch the relegation scramble unfolding but hopes that he can one day play alongside Carlos Tevez. "I hope he can stay. He was fantastic, hungry, showed a great desire, that is what pulled us out in the end. It would be a shame if he goes after just half a season of playing like that. Personally, I just want to get back for the love of playing football, the joy of going out and kicking a ball. I'll be so grateful to get back to that. I want to be part of a West Ham team that could be really special. It's brilliant for me that I will be playing Premiership football again next season. I wouldn't have been looking to leave even if we had gone down; clubs don't sign injured players, do they? I also hope to try to get back into Steve McClaren's thinking. Hopefully, he still sees me as part of his plans."

Owen back, Ashton on his way as Dean and Green work in harmony. With McClaren short on forwards and goals as he heads for Estonia tomorrow morning, he will surely be pleased to learn about this latest story of recovery.

1 comment:

Razor said...

Ashton back fit, Tevez as yet going nowhere, Zamora, Harewood and a bid for Andy Johnstone. Watch out Abramovich and Glaziers, Magnusson is trying to gate crash the party he should never have been on the guest list to.


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