If anyone in Sheffield United’s squad can appreciate the trials and tribulations that Shaun Miller has gone through in 2013, it is Tony McMahon.
Seven years ago, McMahon broke his leg whilst playing for Middlesbrough in a reserve game against Liverpool. The right-back also disclocated his shoulder and underwent two knee operations on Teeside.
Last Boxing Day, Miller suffered a cruciate knee ligament injury in the win over Scunthorpe United, a problem which ruled him out of action for 10 months.
Miller’s goal-scoring exploits were sorely missed as the Blades, for the second season in a row, narrowly failed to go up via the League One play-offs.
“In the summer, I kept speaking to Shaun because I’ve been there,” McMahon told The Star. “I was out for five or six months after I broke my leg and it is hard to describe the feeling.
“You are really down in the dumps sometimes when you are on your own in the gym.
“It was Shaun’s first real bad injury and I’ve had a few in my career. I had an Achilles injury in the summer and we worked together and some days I wasn’t getting home until seven at night.”
After hours upon hours of intensive treatment and gym work, the 26-year-old striker rejoined United’s first-team set-up last month, making his comeback as a second-half substitute at home to Port Vale. He was given a rapturous ovation by the Blades faithful and the former Crewe Alexandra forward has played three times since then.
“Everyone is made up for Shaun,” conceded McMahon. “He’s had a rough ride. I was injured in the summer with him and I saw how hard he was working. Shaun will be feeling on top of the world now. He’s got through that tough period and he’s getting his rewards.
“I remember when he first got back into the squad; we went home and I sent him a text saying ‘well done, you worked hard and you deserved it’.
“I was desperate for him to get a goal on Saturday. He tried to nick the own goal! It would have been nice if he had got it.
“I’m sure the goals will come for him. Shaun is confident he will score goals and we believe in him.”
United boss Nigel Clough handed Miller his first competitive start this calendar year in last Saturday’s FA Cup triumph at Colchester United and is expected to keep faith with him and Chris Porter when they welcome Gillingham to Bramall Lane this weekend.
McMahon said: “We want Shaun to play every game but we know he has just come back after a long-term injury and he will probably get one or two little niggles on the way. If we keep him fit, I’m sure he will score goals for us because he is a really good player.”
During his press briefing yesterday, Clough said he hopes that Diego Di Girolamo will resume full training at the start of December. The promising teenager ruptured his cruciate knee ligament last March.
McMahon said: “I don’t think Diego is too far off. He has been doing some testing so hopefully we will see him soon. It is hard when you are a young kid, especially with all the hype surrounding Diego about him being the next best thing.
“I’m sure he can’t wait to get back fit. Injuries are part and parcel of football but they are hard to take sometimes. You’ve just got to keep going and be mentally tough.”