Four months can seem a long time in football, but for midfielder Nicky Adams it has felt like a lifetime as he’s battled his way along the road to recovery from an ACL injury picked up during the home game against Yeovil Town in November.
The operation, which came a matter of days after the confirmation that the ligament had been ruptured, was followed by a period of recuperation before the rehab programme really kicked in, and gym sessions became the norm with the target of a return to 2018/19 pre-season training the aim.
Having returned to field-based training last week, a familiar smile, accompanied by some rather poor banter, can once again be seen and heard around the squad as they go about their business of preparing for match day.
“I’ve been staring at four walls in the gym for four-and-a-half months, so it’s nice to be back out there,” Adams said. “The good thing is that I haven’t taken any shortcuts and I’ve done everything right. Dolly and Lee [Fearn] have guided me through it every step of the way and that’s obviously been a big help.
“It’s just really nice to get out there and feel like a footballer again. Being honest, it’s quite hard to follow the advice at times. Everyone knows me, they know what I’m like, I just want to be outside and playing football, so those two have had to pull me back and remind me about a few things every now and then.”
“Being totally honest, I did wonder what it would be like to be in boots again and I went out there feeling like Bambi on ice,” he admitted. “It just felt really weird. I loved it though. I’m really positive in my approach to everything and it felt so good to be on grass. I actually did feel like a footballer again.
“After a couple of volleys with the ball I felt good. In fact, it wasn’t my knee that was the problem – it was my touch! The lads try to give me grief, but I’ve only been out a week and I’m already moving better than most of them ever will!”
With his rehab work restricted to the confines of the gymnasium, he admitted that he’d had to realign his focus to deal with the long path that lay ahead.
“I’m not really a gym rat, I never have been, even though I do keep myself in shape,” he told us. “You get lads who love the gym, but I’m just not one of them. It was very important for me to change that and accept that the gym was going to be a big part of my life, because of the nature of my rehab programme.
“I’ve had to lock myself away in there, get my head down and do it properly. It’s been tough mentally, I’m not going to deny that, but I’ve faced it as a challenge and I’m going to keep doing that until I’m ready to play again.”
Having never previously suffered a major injury, through a career which has spanned 13 years so far, he also admitted that it had been an eye-opening period once realisation set in that this wasn’t something to be shrugged off.
“When it happened on the Saturday I didn’t really know what to expect,” he said. “I’d never had that feeling before and I knew it was possible that it was something bad. The feeling was actually like I’d broken my leg when the tackle came in, but I then stood up and it felt fine for a while.
“I’ve watched the challenge back, because I was sent a picture of the position my leg was in. The picture looked awful, my body was straight, but my leg was out. It wasn’t the initial impact, it was the way my leg was planted when he fell on me. This was just unfortunate, it could have happened to anyone.
“At home the next day it didn’t feel too bad, so I started to perk up a bit. When I got the scan result on the Monday - fair play to Dolly, because he was brilliant with me. What he had to tell me wasn’t nice, but he did it really well.
“It still felt like a ton of bricks had fallen on me, but it’s football, it happens. Touch wood I’ve been lucky enough not to have had anything like this before. I did my right knee five or six years ago, but it was through the summer, so it didn’t feel like I’d missed out.
“I might have mentioned this before, but I had a little cry in my bedroom for a while. That’s something I had to do, but I’m the type of person where I know you can’t feel sorry for yourself. Also, I won’t allow anything to defeat me, so I knew I had to get on top of it mentally.”
“Physically I knew I’d be fine, so I sulked a little bit for a few days and then I got it into my head that it is what it is, and I had to crack on.”
A player known for his positive approach, both to work, and life, he conceded that the early stages of his recovery were accompanied by some low periods, particularly on match days.
“Even up to now, I hate Saturdays,” he confirmed. “I don’t enjoy them at all because I want to be out there. I’m watching the games from a different perspective and I’m trying to pick up different things from it, but all I really want is to be playing. It really hurts me that I’m not.
“Obviously my family have been massive for me. One other thing that has been hurting me has been when Archie has asked ‘dad, when can we play football’ because I haven’t been able to kick a ball with him for nearly five months. I’ve already told him that we can have a kick-a-round this week because it’s been hard not to be able to play games with him.
“My mum and dad have both been very supportive. Sometimes they’ve been too supportive because they’ve asked me every day if I’m doing ok, and all I could say was that nothing had changed. It was still the same injury and the same situation.
“Megan, my missus, was great. When I had the operation, you should have seen the state of me, and she looked after me through that. I owe her a lot, so she got a nice holiday as soon as I was able to travel. They’ve all been fantastic and I can’t thank them all enough.”
“There have been some really hard days, but I knew it was going to be tough,” he continued. “Jamie Proctor is a good friend of mine and I speak to him most days. He did the same a few months ago and he’s nearly back in full training. That’s really good news for him, and his advice has helped.
“I speak to Procs all the time, like I said, and Joss Labadie from Newport was texting the day after he’d done it last week. He was asking loads of questions and I told him to get his head down and do everything right, then it would all come good for him.
“It’s an injury I knew nothing about before I’d done it. Once you look into it you see that the people who have problems are those who do try to rush it. If you come back too soon it isn’t necessarily your knee that goes again, it’s other problems that arise around it.
“I’ve spoken to other lads who have been there and it’s clear that it’s no longer an injury where people think you might not come back from it. The surgeons are so good that if you do your rehab properly it becomes something you fully recover from.
“There’s light at the end of the tunnel now and I’m a step closer to where I want to be. The key is to make sure you don’t rush things so you aren’t putting yourself at any risk.”
Click HERE to watch an interview with Nicky Adams on iFollow United now.