Tuesday, 18th September 2012. Cardiff City come away with a terrific 2-0 victory at Millwall, thanks to a Peter Whittingham gem and Craig Noone’s first goal in City colours.
But in the 67th minute of that game, following an innocuous landing, Nicky Maynard is stretchered from the Den pitch. This would be day one of what has proven for Nicky, a frustrating five months.
The man signed by City on deadline day last August had played in just three matches prior to tearing his anterior cruciate ligament against the Lions. A long and frustrating primary phase of his recovery ensued, but the striker joined the first-team squad on the recent warm-weather training camp in Dubai and continues to make strong yet steady progress towards a full recovery. Nicky recently spoke to CF11 about the headway he’s been making.
CF11: Thanks for talking to CF11 this afternoon Nicky. We wanted to touch base with you and see how the recovery is coming on. Where are you at?
NICKY: Things are going well in terms of my recovery – I think its four months since I had my operation for the ligament tear and we’re on track. I recently started doing pitch-based work again in training and straight-line sprinting, things like that. We’ve still some way to go before I’m fully fit again, but I can definitely see light at the end of the tunnel now which is fantastic.
CF11: These past six months must have been so surreal for you. Have you balanced moving to a new Club and area with recovering from such a serious setback?
NICKY: It’s far from ideal to find yourself faced with such a major setback just three games in to your Cardiff career. It feels like you’ve been sucker-punched when you get the news that you’re likely to be out of action for anything up to nine months. Like so many things though, this sort of setback is part and parcel of football – you have to just get on with things, deal with it. My family have been very supportive of me, but it’s naturally going to be frustrating when you’re not able to get around properly in the early days and have to rely on lifts to places for example. Those days are behind me now though thankfully and I have to draw a line under this part of my Cardiff career. All I’m thinking about now is getting back into action and scoring goals for this Football Club.
CF11: You must be sick of seeing physiotherapist Adam Rattenberry after all this time in rehabilitation with him too!
NICKY: (Laughs) Yeah, I’ve been doing a lot of work with Rats these past few months and he’s really helped me a lot to get back to where I am now. There’s still a lot left to do before I can even start thinking about finding match fitness and sharpness, but with the help I’ve had from the medical staff here at the Club I’m hoping to return fitter and stronger that I’ve ever been before.
CF11: How important has it been to have had such strong support from the Manager during this time? He’s spoken about you regularly in press conferences, evidently showing how much he values you with regard to his future plans.
NICKY: The Manager’s been fantastic to me since I’ve been here and it’s nice to know I have his backing through this. He has always kept in regular close contact with me and was keen for me to be part of the squad that travelled to Dubai for warm-weather training last month. It was great being out there with the lads and feeling part of things and I’m thankful for the way the Gaffer has been towards me from the start. What’s also been a real boost for me is the way he’s spoken to me about the injury in relation to a similar injury he suffered during his playing career. He never had any problems with his knee after having the operation and hopefully that will be the same for me and I can concentrate on playing football.
CF11: Are you consciously feeling that you’re approaching the final stretch of your rehabilitation period? Or is it still too soon to start contemplating that?
NICKY: Yeah, I suppose I feel that I’m getting closer to where I need to be. As we’ve already touched upon, training in Dubai was an important time as I was out on the pitch, kicking footballs, twisting and turning and not experiencing any problems with the knee. This is what it’s going to be about now for the next weeks and months as my body gets used to doing the things it was doing before repetitively. Obviously I’m desperate to be playing football again, but the important thing is that I complete my recovery in the right way and don’t try to rush any part of it. We’re doing things right though so it’s all looking positive.
CF11: You evidently feel part of the family here at Cardiff City. As frustrating as it’s been to watch from the side-lines, you must feel pride for the way your team-mates are performing?
NICKY: Yeah massively, the lads are doing so well and hopefully we can go all the way this season if we keep performing at such a good level. I consider myself as part of this squad and I’d like to think that if I’d been involved out there then we’d be doing well too. It’s a lot easier to be injured and watching your team-mates putting performances together to take an eight point gap at the top of the League than it would be if we were struggling and I was feeling helpless to contribute if that makes sense? I think that can work against you as an injured player too if you’re feeling the need to get back to try and get your side winning again and push yourself too hard. Fortunately the lads are doing brilliant without me and I can just concentrate on getting myself ready for whenever that may be.
CF11: You’ll be knocking on the lads’ doors looking for a kick-around in the summer months won’t you? Eager to get going again!
NICKY: (Laughs) Well, I’d like to think I have a chance of getting back in to training before this season ends, but whether or not that will happen is completely in the hands of the medical staff who have been superb from day one. Things are going well and have done every step of the way, but we’ll have to wait and see where we’re at.