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INTERVIEW: Burning desire to do well

8 August 2014

Striker Stephen Elliott on being ready and raring to go

Striker Stephen Elliott revealed today that his love for the game has returned following a knee injury which kept him out of competitive action for almost 18 months. 

“Before the injury happened it was probably a career I took a little bit for granted,” he said. “I was in a routine of getting up every day, going into training and playing games, but I don’t think I properly appreciated what it all meant. 

“It was taken away from me, through no real fault of my own, and it suddenly hit me exactly what it was I was missing out on. Almost from day one of the injury I wanted to be back out there and involved. 

“That type of feeling drives you forward to get playing again and that’s exactly where I’m at now. I really can’t wait to be back out on the pitch. I went to watch a lot of matches, when I couldn’t play, but it’s nowhere near the same. It actually doesn’t feel right when you know you should be out there. 

“If I am involved on Saturday there will be major butterflies and excitement but it will also be a magnificent moment for me personally.”

“Looking back, I had days before the surgery where I was in so much pain I didn’t know where to turn,” he explained. “There were times when I wondered if I would get back into the game at all so all you can do, when you’re feeling that low, is think about the good times. 

“That makes you want to get those feelings back as quickly as possible. I’m only 30 years old and I’d like to think I’ve got a few more years left in me yet.”

“I didn’t play any football last season, because of the injury, but I’ve been training for a while now and I feel like I’m getting there,” he continued. “I just need to keep working on fitness and sharpness and I should be back up to speed very soon. That way I’ll be ready whenever the manager calls on me.

“I’ve played with Kav previously at Sunderland, and with Ireland, and it does help when you know someone. I’m just really looking forward to playing now. I want to do whatever I can to help the club get back up into the next league.”

“The worst thing about being out of the game is the unknown element it brings,” he told us. “You start to question if you’ll ever play again but I always believed, deep down, that I would. 

“I’m feeling really good about myself and I have a burning desire to show that I can get back to my best. This is probably the hungriest I’ve been before a season in my career even though it’s not the highest level I’ve played at. In terms of wanting to play, it really hasn’t felt like this ever before. I think I’ve come to a great club which is clearly looking to have a successful season.”

And on his thoughts on the club overall, having spent a prolonged training period with the lads over the course of the last few weeks, he said: “This has all the signs of being a good move for me. I know a few people in the area and I know a bit about the club. It’s going to give me a good platform to get back playing again and hopefully I can push on from there.  

“The only club I’ve spoken to has been Carlisle United because they’ve looked after me. They’ve been superb with helping me through the back end of my rehab and with getting me ready to play. 

“I’ve been made to feel really welcome and I’ve lived with a couple of the lads as well. I want to repay what everyone has done for me by playing games and helping them to get points.

“I still believe in myself despite the fact it has been a difficult year for me. I was without a club and obviously I wasn’t playing, and that’s why I can’t wait to get started again. From what I’ve seen everything is really positive and it’s a good place to be.”

On what the fans can expect to see, he said: “I bring a lot of energy and I like to think I’m quite clever in the way I do things in and around the box. I can create chances and I like to lead by example by the way I play. Hopefully that will get more out of the players around me.

“I’ve been in the game a long time and I’ve enjoyed quite a few promotions along the way. I’ve played at a good level so I’d like to think I can help some of the other lads, particularly when the going gets tough. That’s when you need your experienced players to pull everyone together and that’s a job I’m more than ready to do.”

A 60-minute run out against Carlisle City on Tuesday night brought two goals and glowing praise from the manager, and Elliott admitted that being back in action had put a lot of ghosts to bed.

“That was my first game in about 18 months and I don’t mind saying I was a little bit nervous going into it,” he admitted. “I had to ask one of the lads how to put my shin guards on, I was that rusty! 

“It was great to be on the pitch again and, even though it was a friendly, it was a massive thing for me just to be involved. Scoring a couple of goals gave me a nice reminder of what it’s all about and I was able to show myself that I can still do it. 

“There’s a lot more needed with my sharpness and fitness but I’m confident that it’s not too far away. Everyone is looking forward to the new season and, for me, it’s about getting my career going after being out of the game for too long.”

The final mystery to clear up was to find out where the nickname ‘Sleeves’ had originated from.

“It’s a nickname from many years ago,” he said. “I used to have a phrase I used a lot in the dressing room – sleeves up – as if to say, look, if you’re serious about the game then pull your sleeves up and do things properly. I also said it if someone was telling a story I didn’t quite believe.

“I did say it all the time so somebody - I think it was Mick McCarthy - started to call me ‘Sleeves’ and it’s stuck with me ever since. Everybody knows me as that now and, to be fair, I could think of worse nicknames it could be!”

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