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Interviews

INTERVIEW: Three times is harsh, but it won't stop me

Josh Dixon on mental strength and taking things day by day

15 July 2022

It’s obvious to everyone who has a heart that away from the hustle and bustle of Brunton Park midfielder Josh Dixon will have suffered some pretty dark days over the course of the last couple of years with an unbelievable run of knee injuries that have struck at the most inopportune of moments, usually just as the young playmaker has been set to make a mark within the first-team environment.

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Having come through the club’s academy system, and subsequently impressing in the youth team, he earned his first pro contract at the end of the 2017/18 season, but a ruptured ACL picked up later that summer meant that he missed out on his first year as a professional.

He was back and in training for pre-season ahead of the 2019/20 campaign, but another training ground injury was eventually confirmed to be a second ACL problem, and he was once again under the knife for a repair.

Undaunted and unbowed he got his nose back on the grindstone, only to have his recovery hampered by a troublesome cartilage problem in September 2021.

That was set to one side, and his return to the fold looked a certainty until he went down under a heavy challenge in a Central League Cup meeting with Morecambe last April.

A tense period of waiting followed, and the worst fears were confirmed when the initial swelling settled and a rupture to the ACL was identified.  

Always matter of fact, he spoke about the setback as yet another challenge to be faced as he handed back the crutches and stepped up his post-operation recovery this week.

“It’s obviously not ideal but it’s happened now and I’ve just got to get on with it,” he insisted. “It’s been a bit unfair on me, this is three times now, but as soon as it happens I know I just have to get on with it.

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“There’s no other way of dealing with it, to be fair. I’ve got a really supportive family and friends that have made it easier. As soon as I’ve done it on the pitch it hurts but afterwards it’s just speaking to Ross, and Dave the youth team physio on how to deal with it, and what exercises to do to make it feel better before my operation.”

The tumble during that Morecambe game was accompanied by a scream of pain from the player, with everyone present holding their breath in hope that he’d be up on his feet and running around again after the physio had taken a look.

“At first I did think it was quite bad,” he admitted. “There’s always that thing in your mind of - oh, surely not.

“It wasn’t as painful as the other times. When I went down, came off and it stiffened up, I sort of knew. When you hear the final news of what it is, it’s not nice. 

“But even I didn’t think at first that I’d done anything. Then I go for my scan, have a few days of waiting, that was horrible, and then actually finding out I’d done it again.

“At first it doesn’t really sink in, then it’s weeks after, when you realise how long the actual process is. I’ve just got on with it, I’m doing well, Ross is happy with me at the minute.”

“I think it does definitely help that I’ve been through it before,” he commented. “For Joel Senior, who I’m working within the gym, it’s his first time and that’s tough.

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“Because I’ve been through it, there are certain stages I know how to deal with. Not that that’s a good thing, but it’s helped me. 

“With this one I’ve done a little bit of cartilage as well, which meant I was on crutches for two or three weeks. I’m off them now, I’m feeling good, and that’s a relief because I think my mam and dad were getting a bit sick of me at one point.”

So with a set of circumstances that would test anyone, where does the inner strength come from?

“I think probably the worst thing you can do is hide away, or let yourself think about it too much,” he said. “I remember Ross ringing me when I was sat at home to tell me it was the ACL, and at first I wanted to ring him back and say are you sure?

“It’s not nice, but I think as the days go on that’s how you’ve got to take it, day by day, and it gets better. 

“The most frustrating part is there were two games a week at the time so I was getting used to playing 90 minutes of football again after so long out. Then this happens and it’s not ideal.

“But it won’t stop me from working hard and trying to get back up to the pace of things as soon as possible. 

“I think the surgeon and Ross are looking at February-March time, which doesn’t sound great at the minute, but I’m seven weeks gone now, and these have flew in. You just have to take it day by day.”

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And part of the determination is to make sure that when he’s back on the pitch this time round, it’s for the long haul.

“100 per cent,” he agreed. “I’m just working hard every day in the gym, after sessions, to try and make me as strong as possible.

“Before I come back this time I want to make sure all my leg muscles are as strong as possible so this doesn’t happen again.

“I’ve had little snippets and feel I’ve done well when I’ve came on, but I am hungry for more. It’s just going to have to be a bit of a waiting game but I’m going to work as hard as I can to get back. 

“I watched a pre-season game the other day and I just want to be out playing. In the gym, it’s alright for a few days, but then you just want to get playing. When you see the lads looking fit and sharp and stuff, it’s hard.

“They’ve all been brilliant with me. Every single one of them, they’re always checking up on me, asking how I’m doing. The lads couldn’t have been better.

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“And it’s the same with Simmo, Gav, the rest of the staff. They’re always saying take your time and telling me that if there’s anything I need just go to them, for any support.

“At the minute I’m doing well, Ross is happy with me, and I just came off my crutches so I’m able to do a different sort of work in the gym.

“It’s not much different I suppose, but it is to me, getting better each day is making it much easier for me.

“Other than that it’s a few months in the gym, working on my strength work, and as soon as I’m out working on the grass the time will fly in and I’ll be closer to training. That’s a bit down the line, it’s about getting stronger at the moment.

“Every day is a new day and I just take positives out of each little thing. It is difficult but I’m just the sort of person it doesn’t really bother me, or of it does I get my head down and get through it.

“It’s about breaking it into little targets. It’s not just for me, it’s wanting to prove to my family as well, and the managers who’ve put faith in me, given me contracts. I just want to go back out on the pitch and repay them.

“It is difficult but now I’ve had about three years of watching, you pick up different things in every single game. I can’t just watch a game and enjoy it - I’ve got to look at people in my position, when I come back how I can play, implement that into my game.

“If I do get that opportunity again it will make it all worth it and it will mean a lot to me. And I know Simmo is supporting me all the way. I had a few weeks with him when I was just getting back into fitness and he said I was doing well.

“As soon as I got my injury he was always asking how it is, days after, and when he found out about the injury he was just as gutted as I was. He’s been spot on with me, asking me questions every day, and if I need any support I just to go to him or Gav. He’s been nothing but nice with me. 

“All the lads in the pre-season games have looked sharp so far, it will be good to see how they do in the next few games. I’ll be supporting them when the season starts and working hard to be out there with them as soon as I can be.”

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