If anyone can understand the agony that Antonio Valencia has been going through since suffering that horrific injury against Glasgow Rangers last week it has to be Newcastle United midfielder Alan Smith who went through the same experience while playing for Manchester United against Liverpool at Anfield. That was nearly four years ago and Smith concedes that he has not been the same player since. He has now expressed fears that Valencia may never be able to perform at the top level again.
Apart from his own battle to overcome that injury, Smith also cites the case of Arsenal striker Eduardo who dislocated his ankle against Birmingham City in February 2008 and was forced to leave the Gunners in summer after failing to completely recover his form. It’s the same cruel fate that despite his best efforts, may eventually befall Valencia.
“I’ve not been the same player since my injury. Eduardo had the same injury and he struggled so much but the thing is you’ve got to make the best of it” Smith said. “Hopefully Antonio, who I saw have a bad injury, will be able to get back to the level that he was at before. It takes hours of work, I know it will be very difficult but I’d like to wish him all the best doing that”
Smith was able to make a comeback after seven months but it was over a year before he could play again on a regular basis. He was only able to make another handful of appearances for United before moving to Newcastle in 2007. Rather than a striker, Smith had to adapt to taking up a midfield role and now takes every game as it comes.
“Every game and every week is definitely a bonus because it would have been so easy to pack it in or not fight hard enough to get back in and so easy to let your standards drop” the 29 year old said. “I’ve changed my position and I’m still trying to learn that and it’s good for me, it’s interesting. You’re always involved.”
“It was like a new start for me really and you have to prove yourself, game in game out – that’s what football’s all about. Everyone loves playing, and as long as I’m able to play at any level I’ll still do so.”
Valencia knows full well that just like Smith, Eduardo and others before him he has a long, hard road ahead to save his career but at the age of 25 and with all the assistance available at Manchester United, together with a determination instilled into his character by an underprivileged childhood, Old Trafford fans will see plenty more of him in the years ahead.
One final thought from an absolute layman. A close look at these photos show that there is absolutely no protection to the ankle between the bottom of the shin pads and the top of the low cut football boots. Can it be possible for someone to come up with a similar type of ankle protection that is currently provided by shin pads? The multi million pound careers of so many players may even hinge on it.
Does equipment give enough protection to players in the modern game?