NOT many footballers would be relieved to hear they’d sustained a medial ligament injury just a couple of months into the new season. For Alan Navarro, the news was a godsend.
The Swindon Town midfielder, who is steadily regaining full fitness following the knee problem sustained in the dying moments of the Robins’ 2-2 draw with Coventry last month, explained in a candid chat with the local media on Monday how he was terrified he’d snapped a cruciate ligament for the third time in his career as he lay in agony on the County Ground turf on October 13.
As a youngster at Tranmere in 2002 Navarro suffered a similar injury in his left knee before missing most of the 2010/11 campaign after damaging his right cruciate during Brighton’s League Cup clash with Northampton.
Between them the two absences kept the Scouser sidelined for 18 months, so when physio Paul Godfrey told the 31-year-old that he had a grade two medial ligament tear - and a potential rehab time of no more than eight weeks - Navarro was delighted.
“I knew straight away something wasn’t right. It was hard to explain whether it was a pop or a crack but I knew something wasn’t right. It wasn’t the same sort of pain as when I did my cruciate but I was thinking because I’d done my cruciate before whether it was something to do with that,” he said.
“Luckily enough, when I had my scans the cruciate was just bleeding so it was still intact and still strong, but it could be eight, nine or 10 months before it starts feeling right again.
“You can be walking around the house and just clip your toes on the door and the physio says you’d still feel it.
“I was in pain straight away and I was thinking ‘no, no, please’ and I was in the treatment room and my wife came in with my little boy and she said ‘please, it’s not your cruciate is it?’ “I just thought straight away ‘please, not my cruciate’. The physio looked at me and he was 80 or 90 per cent sure it wasn’t my cruciate because my knee was still strong but it was a bit lax on the medial side and the scan confirmed that.
“It’s a relief. It takes a weight off your shoulders.”
Six weeks on and the former MK Dons man is closing in on a return to Town’s matchday squad.
He enjoyed, or perhaps endured, his first full training session back with his teammates on Monday and hopes to feature as one of the 18 men picked by manager Paolo Di Canio to face Doncaster on December 8.
After a month-and-a-half in the gym doing a combination of leg weights, squats, leg extensions and leg presses designed to help him regain the strength in his right knee, Navarro is itching to get back to competitive action.
“It’s not nice at the moment. It’s nice to be back with the squad and getting my running done but obviously I’m still getting used to the running again,” he said.
“Watching the boys playing every week has been hard. I’ve been used to this in the past, I’ve had a couple of six-month injuries. When you’re out for six months it’s just a nightmare so it’s lucky it was only six weeks or seven weeks this time.
“I’m going to be pushing in the next two weeks to hopefully be a part of the game coming up. We’ll see how it goes with the training and if my knee stays strong.
“Even if I’ve been out for six weeks it’s still not a long time but people don’t realise when you do these injuries the first month, six weeks, two months are the easiest.
“You just accept it, there’s nothing you can do. It’s when you’re close to getting back that is the hardest, the last couple of weeks.
“You’re not exactly fit but you’re champing at the bit to be ready.
“I’ve been running with the boys but you can see I’m slightly behind. I kept up with them for a certain part but the last couple of runs I was so many seconds behind.
“It hurts to be honest with you because mentally you’re like ‘I was there a couple of months ago, I was in the second group’ and now I’m a couple of groups behind.”
Swindon fitness coach Claudio Donatelli has instructed Navarro throughout his recovery not to set himself any targets, in case a failure to meet them triggers psychological setbacks.
However, he is now in a position where he can start thinking about his comeback, and how he will deal with a return to match action.
He said: “It’s going to be different because it’s a different part of the knee. This part of the knee is where you pass the ball on the inside of your foot and you’re using it all the time.
“Now and again I’m going to be thinking about it which is why I need the training to get past the confidence side of it.
“The cruciate side, because you’re out a lot longer, when you get back you’re stiff, sore and mentally tired. I think it will be a lot easier this time because I’ve only been out for six weeks.”