Defender Morgan Feeney headed into the summer break knowing that he had the security of a new deal under his belt, but also feeling as ready to go as ever having just completed his return from an unfortunate foot break picked up just days after he’d joined his new club.
The 22-year-old is tipped to become a key player next season, and he confirmed that some hard yards had been put in as he now looks forward to a return to work at the end of next month.
And part of that work included an intense spell of training at Creighton last week, where he was put through his paces with a number of other players by assistant manager Gav Skelton.
“It was brilliant to be part of that,” he admitted. “It was a good opportunity to get some extra training that I’ve missed out on in the rest of the season. It’s helped me to keep ticking over.
“In the last few weeks of the season training slowed down a bit, because of how much the lads were playing, so I missed out on that sort of intense training back with the group.
“It was good to come in with a few of the other lads to get something through the legs and some good gym sessions. I feel good for it.”
“It’s been a strange few weeks really,” he continued. “I was getting back and I felt ok and ready to go, but sometimes it’s not worth pushing it too early.
“Having got back to full fitness after breaking my foot it was almost a stage of the season where it almost wasn’t worth risking anything. From my point of view in my head I was ready, but maybe not so much physically. It was more a case of me getting back into the swing of things.
“The gaffer spotted that and he actually told me that it was a little bit too early for me. I agreed with him, in a sense. It was the right decision just to make sure I was completely right.”
But a good opportunity came for him to remind everybody what he’s about when the Blues faced Bournemouth in the Central League Cup final at the end of April.
“That was tough,” he revealed. “It was my first proper game since September. Bournemouth were a good side, moved the ball well, and we felt we were chasing shadows in the first half.
“Physically, it gets you breathing a little bit, but it was good to get the game feel again. You can do all the running you like with physios and in the gym, but an actual game is different.
“I enjoyed it, but over the next few days I don’t think I could walk until the following Thursday! But it was good, because I’d missed that feeling of being out there.
“We didn’t win the game but personally I got more of what I needed to get out of it. I’d missed that feeling of waking up a bit sore and going again. It was good and bad at the same time, kind of thing.
“Football’s my life, I love playing football, and I certainly approached that game in that way. I give it everything when I’m on the pitch. Sometimes that’s my problem when I pick up little injuries, but that’s the way I play, I’m unapologetic about that. I’m desperate to give it my all every time I play, and it’s like it’s my last game.”
With him having picked up the foot injury just minutes into his first training session at the club, having signed a half-season deal, we wondered what went through his mind as he realised that the impact was something more than just a knock.
“It was a strange sort of first day,” he told us. “I was eager and ready to go, I was chomping at the bit, and then that happened. “It was just a freak accident in the session, a tackle that I’ve done thousands of times, but I clipped one a stud and it caught me on the sweet spot on my foot and broke it.
“I knew straight away it was broken. I gave it a couple of minutes to see if it was or wasn’t, but it wasn’t to be. It was frustrating but you have to look at it and say, ‘could I have affected it?’ I couldn’t. It was one of those things that happen in football – you have to take it on the chin and move on.”
Demonstrating some real mental toughness, he added: “You can’t let stuff like that get you down. Once it was confirmed I dealt with it. When could I potentially return, set a goal, what do I want to get out of this rehab, that’s the kind of thing I was thinking.
“I’ve come back stronger, fitter. You can only take out of it the best you can. It’s a bit of bad luck but the good thing about that is your luck’s got to change at some point. Hopefully next season I’ll be fine.
“The manager said the same thing. He was brilliant, very supportive. He told me to get my head down and to make sure I came back even fitter. He was as disappointed as I was, but it was more a surprise at the nature of the tackle, because I’ve been in much heavier challenges in my career and not had something like this.
“I really thought I could run it off but once I realised it was broke I had to pull out. Like I said, at that point you just have to deal with it. If you hit a tough period like that it could be easy to go under and let it get on top of you.
“I just don’t ever get myself in that sort of state. I deal with it as it comes straight away. I don’t worry about things I can’t control. It’s just wasted energy. I just look forward to what’s coming, what I can do in the meantime to get there, just set myself little goals.
“If you’ve got a goal to go and beat, it keeps you occupied and busy. Before you know it the rehab’s done. I was out three months and it flies by if you set yourself little targets. That’s what way I get through things like that.”
And United’s medical team came in for praise in the way they’d helped and guided him, particularly through the early weeks.
“Both Ross [Goodwin] and Greg [Short] were brilliant,” he said. “The experience and knowledge and their expertise is brilliant. From the first day I knew I was in good hands with them both.
“I’m still in that stage where I haven’t really played and only had a few weeks’ training, so I’ve been speaking with Greg heavily on gym and grass-based stuff, and about what the best recipe for me is to come back.
“I’ll be speaking to them regularly in the off-season making sure my programme’s right and that I can come back as soon as possible. This summer is a bit different because I’ve missed a lot of football.
“I don’t really have many weeks off anyway because I tend to get a bit sluggish. Usually I would take a couple of weeks off the grass and concentrate on gym-based stuff. I’ve missed a big chunk of the season and that’s why it was brilliant for me to come in and get three or four tough sessions last week.
“That will help me in the long run and for the next couple of months I’ll be trying to tick over and make sure I come back as soon as possible. I just see this as an opportunity to really boost my fitness and to make sure I’m ready. It’s a window of opportunity for me, this off-season.”
We’ll be talking to Morgan about his new deal with the club on the official website on Monday morning.