While it’s usually a bit worrying if your best player on the day is your goalie, it’s reassuring that he can leap about like a slinky in gloves.
Rob Elliot had a cracking game against Bournemouth. He inspired a little bit more confidence in his defenders, who, while not exactly rapid at closing down shots and crosses, didn’t seem to mind launching themselves in front of the ball or being whacked by it. That Rob Elliot had been injured before the match makes his performance all the more remarkable.
Injuries are, literally and metaphorically, a pain.
Anyone who has played a sport at any level who has not been able to do it because of injury will tell you the same thing. It’s not just that you can’t exercise or take part in an event; your mood changes because of the change in chemicals released in your brain during physical exercise.
Your confidence suffers as you try to compensate for the injury or protect it. Marcelino had to open pizza boxes with his other hand for months, poor bloke.
Do Newcastle United players pick up more injuries than players at other clubs?
We have got at least eight players who could arguably play in the first team, who are out with injuries. Perhaps it’s because our squad is thinner than most that we notice when players are missing.
This isn’t an entirely new phenomenon: when Kieron Dyer and Andy Cole developed shin splints, it affected the balance of the teams they played in. We had good players, but jumping into the rhythm of the team is a different thing altogether. And every team has players that they really hope won’t get injured; these were good examples of those players.
Graeme Souness pointed to the blades on modern football boots as a cause of turning related injuries. Well, that would account for some of them. Remember when David Beckham invented the broken metatarsal? Modern football boots got the blame for that, too. Too light, apparently.
There were injuries before that though. Bad ones. As David McCreery ripped his leg open, his agonising yelp could be heard across the other side of St James Park. I heard it. The wound needed more stitches than Marcelino had excuses. And David Busst’s injury made Peter Schmeichel throw up.
The arrival of Pro-Zone as a tool to monitor footballer performance revealed some interesting results. Coaches and managers were able to see where on the pitch players were running, and crucially, they were able to detect changes to their game when the player was hiding an injury. Apparently, Marcelino wasn’t clapping as much.
This might have even been subconscious on the part of some players, but being ‘left out’ shreds confidence; Marcelino never tried to carry three pints again.
The standard of football pitches might have improved, with less clarty pitches causing fewer slips and less fatigue due to running through a mud bath. Alan Shearer apparently cleared the treatment room by introducing ice baths and taking away Mark Viduka’s Greggs loyalty card.
Modern medicine, strength work and footballers treating themselves as athletes have all added to the longevity of careers when even twenty years ago, injuries were curtailing careers sooner than anyone would have liked.
Maybe this means that talented though injury prone players tend to be sifted through the retention system; the strongest survive, so we really notice when the players who make it get crocked.
So why does our changing room look like the walk-in centre on the West Road?
Are we just unlucky, the victims of a recruitment policy that means we haven’t got enough depth?
Or are we no different to other clubs?
Whatever the combination of answers, there’s nothing wrong with Rob Elliot’s hands. Just don’t let him shake Marcelino’s.
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