Midfielder Mike Jones missed out on close to 20 games last season when he spent two spells on the sidelines having picked up collision ankle injuries in the fixtures against Luton Town and Cambridge United, in December and March respectively.
With care and attention from the club’s medical department, and a huge chunk of much appreciated assistance from Jon Guy [former-Oldham Athletic physiotherapist] at Bolton University, the popular playmaker is now in a position to make a return during pre-season, slightly ahead of schedule.
He made his first return to running on the grass with a bespoke training session at Brunton Park on Tuesday afternoon this week, and we took a moment of his time to see if his return to a more serious type of training had helped to lift his spirits following last season’s setbacks.
“I’m working hard now ahead of the rest of the lads coming back in,” he said. “I’ve been out since March and I still haven’t done much running yet, to be honest. I’ve done a lot of cycling and swimming so now it’s just about blasting the running before the lads come back so that I’m ready to go straight back in with them.
“I’ve been on a couple of holidays with my little boy but even then I’ve been keeping my fitness work up. I’m all on track and ready for pre-season and that’s good news for me. I’m pleased to say that I should be ready to go and do everything that everyone else will be doing next week.
“Dolly might be a bit wary with me in terms of playing in the first few friendlies, and things like that, but I’ll certainly be up to speed with everything else. Even doing this running today, I feel pretty good, so I’m definitely on track.”
“I’m enjoying the running now because it’s been so long since I’ve been able to do it, but I’m sure I’ll be sick of it again in a couple of weeks,” he added. “This is the bread and butter, this is my job and it’s what I enjoy doing.
“I’m feeling the progress every day now. Sometimes you wake up and feel like you’ve gone backwards but other days you wake up and really feel the difference, so getting this session in today is brilliant. Knowing this session is in the bank is important because this is my first short and sharp running test, so it’s good to get it done.”
Part of the acceleration of his rehab process has been down to a series of sessions on an Alter G running machine, kindly made available by the medical staff at Bolton University.
“It’s a fantastic machine and I can’t thank Jon Guy enough,” he commented. “He’s a good friend and he was the physio when I was at Oldham. Dolly knows him as well so he got in touch and was kind enough to help me out.
I can’t thank Bolton Uni enough and it was very nice of Jon and everyone there to do that ...
“I did three sessions on the machine, which got me used to running again without having to put my full weight on the ankle, so when I did come outside it felt more normal. Dolly says it takes the limp away when you do start running outside a little bit as well. I can’t thank Bolton Uni enough and it was very nice of Jon and everyone there to do that.
“The other good thing about it is that it gives you something different to concentrate on. You can find when you’re injured that you do a lot of the same things. Even if you enjoy cycling and swimming you can get to the point where you’re sick of it.
“It has to be done though because when it comes down to it all you want to be doing is playing games. This pre-season is so important for me. During my career I’ve only missed one pre-season and it meant that I was catching myself up during the whole season. It’s massive, it’s important you get a good pre-season into you because it sets you up for the next ten months to come.”
Speaking more about the injuries he sustained, he said: “It’s been torture, I hate missing games. Luckily throughout my career I haven’t had many injuries at all. I’ve probably missed near enough half of the season which was devastating.
“Both injuries were flukey really. The first one at Luton was because of the way he landed on me, and the way he fell wouldn’t happen very often. The second one against Cambridge was a bad tackle in my eyes, even though I didn’t get a free kick for it. It was the same ankle and it was just so unlucky.
“The only thing I was able to do while I was injured was be there for the lads in the dressing room as much as I could. It was hard not to be playing but the lads and the staff were good in terms of keeping me involved in the build up to games and things like that.
“I helped out a bit verbally in the dressing room but you don’t want to get too involved because you’ve got to trust the lads to do their jobs. All I wanted was to be able to go out there and do my job, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to do that for the second half of the season.”
Having played a huge part in getting the Blues into the top three spaces during the first half of the season he earned high praise from the manager as he was picked out as one of the squad’s star performers.
“I can’t speak highly enough of the gaffer on and off the pitch, so it’s nice when you hear him saying good things about you as a player,” he commented. “The way we were playing in the first half of the season, with the tempo and the style of football, was creating a lot of problems for teams.
“When people talk about the way you do your job it’s good to hear, it’s something I pride myself on and I’ve always done it. It won’t change so it’s nice to get the appreciation and I just want to do the same for the gaffer next season.”
“I’m looking forward to all the lads getting back together next week,” he concluded. “It’s always a good laugh and everyone will have a few stories from their summer. It’s good seeing everyone again because you’re with each other every day and you do miss that banter. I just hope everyone is hungry to go one better next season.”