Having spoken about his first goal yesterday we took the opportunity to speak to wing-back Joel Senior about his return from injury, and about the challenges of slotting straight back into a team that is challenging at the top end of the table.
“Coming back from the injury has been tough and I’m still building my fitness up now and trying to get where I need to be,” he admitted. “I don’t believe I’m anywhere close to where I was before yet, so I feel like I’ve still got so much to give to the team and the club.
“Building my fitness is just one of those things which will come with time after being out for so long. I just need to keep playing games and I’ll get there sooner rather than later.
“It’s hard when there’s Saturday-Tuesday games and you know you’ll be tired, but I’ve just got to do what I can to recover. I’ve been going in the pool and different things away from the training ground and making sure I eat the right things so I recover as well as I can.
“It’s tough mentally when you wake up the next day and you don’t feel great, but it’s all worth it when you get the three points the night before. I just want to recover right so I can do it all again in the next game.
“I don’t have any issues with thinking about my injury going into games or anything like that. I know it will take time and games for me to get back to my best and I know I’m not there yet.
“In terms of the injury, I don’t even think about it when I’m going into games or training. It’s in the past now, I’ve worked so hard to get back and all that hard work will pay off.”
And he’s been helped with his return by the manager, who has staggered his involvement with fitness and longevity in mind.
“I understand that after the injury I had it isn’t going to be as easy as just coming back in and playing every game, it’s just not possible to do it after such a long time out,” he told us. “I’m happy with how things are going and I just want to be involved with this group, hopefully at the end of the season we’ve gone up and it’s all been worth it.
“The gaffer knows the game, he’s a great manager, he’ll know that he’s got to protect me in some ways when he needs to, and pull me out, and when he feels he can put me back in, to do that.
“It’s not an easy injury to come back from, to play straight away every game, especially when you’ve got Sat-Tues-Sat-Tues. I feel he’s worked it really well and he’s helped me for it.
“When I’m coming back in I’m fresh rather than, it takes me a little bit longer now to recover, so rather than me going into games feeling stiff. I’m really pleased how he’s done it.
“He’s been amazing for me. When the new gaffer first came in I was injured and he was great throughout all my rehab. If he felt I needed a few days off he was really good to me.
“We’d have chats about how it was going, it was a massive part of my rehab just having conversations with the manager. Then when I finally got back out on the training pitch he spoke to me, told me what he wants from me in the team, we’ve had good conversations and I do really enjoy working for him, as all the players do. It’s been a good start and everyone’s enjoying it.”
And with 13 games left to play it’s now about focusing on trying to repeat the good things from the previous 33 that have put the Blues in the automatic promotion places.
“We couldn’t ask for anything more,” he commented. “It’s exciting for all of us, it’s in our hands and it’s up to us, so hopefully we’re all smiling on the last day of the season.
“We have to embrace where we are, if you don’t and it’s on your mind all the time, that’s where you start to fall back and maybe the pressure takes over, if you don’t smile while you’re doing it.
“I feel everyone performs at their best when they’ve got a smile on their face and enjoying the situation they’re in, whereas if you take all the pressure in, I think it’s only going to affect you in the wrong way.
“I feel you’ve got to embrace it. You’ve got to understand the situation that we’re in, and what we can achieve this season, but you’ve got to realise you can do it, believe in yourself and your team-mates, and you’ll see where it takes you. It could take you up.
“We’re definitely keeping our feet on the ground. We know where we are and there’s a little bit of pressure which comes with that, but that’s the pressure we want. We wouldn’t want to be anywhere else in the table.
“We’ll keep working hard which we do anyway, we’re a close group and we all get on really well. We know if someone steps out of line we need to have a word, but it’s not happened and it won’t happen because this group is so good.”
And the word ‘group’ includes the supporters, who have been absolutely magnificent.
“The fans have been amazing,” he agreed. “I don’t know how far it is to Crawley but it took us over seven hours to get down on Friday, so for us to take that many is just incredible.
“They’ve been so good home and away and hopefully they just keep coming and backing us. Even when I was injured and walking outside on a match day it’s amazing to see them all gathering in the fan zone outside.
“It’s great for us all to be able to put smiles on their faces and get them cheering back at us, it’s the best feeling you can have as a footballer. Hopefully we get a good crowd on Saturday and they keep coming because we keep performing on the pitch.
“It’s all down to how you perform. If we win on Saturday we know where we can potentially be, or we’re going to stay in the same position. We’ve just got to concentrate on ourselves, not worry about what people behind or in front of us are doing, and I’m sure we’ll be in the best position we can be.
“With the fans, the numbers they bring, it’s outstanding, and obviously pushes us massively during the games. We want to do it for them and the whole club.
“Seeing the fans turning out in their numbers gives us confidence to put a performance on for them – they’re the one buying the tickets and putting in the hard yards to watch us play. We want to give it back to them.”