Young centre-back Matty Doyle remains in good spirits, despite suffering an agonising ACL injury just two months ago.
The 17-year-old climbed for a header during our U18s’ 2-0 victory at Wigan Athletic and, after receiving a nudge in the back whilst in mid-air, landed awkwardly and damaged the ligaments in his left knee.
He is now four weeks post-operation and undertaking the arduous rehabilitation process but, much like his own persona, is upbeat, optimistic and tackling the challenge head on.
“I’m good; I’m progressing well with the knee and doing as much as I can to get back fit as soon as possible,” he asserted as we sat in the club’s gym. “The operation went really well. They said it was a perfect operation and the scars have healed well.
“My rehab is pretty repetitive for the first six weeks. I’d slightly torn my meniscus as well, so I’m on crutches for six weeks, just 50% weight bearing.
“So, a lot of the stuff is repetitive; just learning how to move it again, lift it, try to walk as much with it as I can, get used to putting more weight through it.
“That’s all it’s about, really, and as soon as I can put full weight through it, I can kick on and change the programme a bit, hopefully.”
There’s never a good time to pick up an injury of this magnitude, but it came at a particularly frustrating time for Doyle as our young Reds challenged for an end of season play-off berth – which they ultimately went onto secure.
However, he has still remained a positive influence around the squad and praised his teammates for the qualities they have shown this term.
“It’s gutting, really,” continued Doyle. “I love playing with this team that I’ve played with all season – it’s probably the best team I’ve ever played in, ability-wise and lads-wise.
“They’re a really good set of lads and I was gutted when I found out that, obviously, I’d be out for a long time, but it’s been good to support them and be around it in the changing rooms. I’ve still been doing as much as I can.”
Our defender will spend a lot of time in the gym over the next few months as he continues to regain full mobility in his knee and maintain strength in his leg muscles.
Being confined to the indoors while his peers take to the field each day can potentially be soul destroying, but Doyle insists that this will help him become mentally stronger and is using this experience to spur him on further.
“I think it has already, to be honest,” he admitted. “I’ve never ever had a really slight injury before and, when it first happened, it was shock.
“I came to terms with it, and I just thought what’s the point in bringing myself down for this. I might as well put my whole mind to getting back as soon as possible because seeing everyone playing and training – doing things I’d usually be able to do day in, day out – it makes me think I want to be out there as soon as possible.
“It motivates me more.”