Sheffield United: Paul Coutts says he feels stronger than ever after making his return to action during Matt Roney's testimonial
The result was not important.
What mattered, other than paying homage to Matt Roney, was the return of Paul Coutts.
Sheffield United used tonight's testimonial against Sheffield FC to honour both the greatest ever servantÂ to the world's oldest ever club and ease their Scottish midfielder back into action following a near year longÂ lay-off.
Ten months after fracturing his leg during a Championship fixture at Burton Albion, Coutts completed overÂ an hour of an entertaining match which saw the likes of Rob Kozluk, Derek Geary and Michael Brown joinÂ the celebrations during the closing stages. Michael Vaughan, the former England cricket captain andÂ Sheffield Wednesday supporter, also agreed to play the pantomime villain.
"It felt great to be back out there with the lads again," Coutts said. "I wanted to stay on longer and, although the gaffer gave me a few more minutes than planned, the physios have got a programme for me to follow. "It's been a long time but, to be honest, the most frustrating part has been the last few weeks. Before then, I knew I wouldn't be able to play but, ever since I've felt up to it, that's when it became more tough."
Physically, Coutts has healed faster, better and quicker than expected with x-rays confirming his tibia is actually stronger now than before it broke.That revelation, supported by a consultant's in-depth analysis, has also prevented any psychological scars.
"The bone is actually thicker than it used to be," Coutts added. "So I feel really good in my own mind. I'm ready to start smashing into people again. I've got a development game on Tuesday at the training ground and then, after that, it's about pushing to be selected again."Â
"With the boys doing so well, that's not going to be easy," Coutts, describing Saturday's victory over Aston Villa as "brilliant", continued. "I've been badgering the gaffer a lot recently but I can't go knocking on his door right now can I?
'They've been great to watch and long may it continue. Like a lot of players, I'm not a great watcher but it I really enjoyed being in the stands seeing that."
With over a week-and-a-half to go before the next competitive outing, United named a stong startingÂ eleven at the Coach and Horses Stadium. Chris Wilder's decision not only served a purpose, with newÂ signings Marvin Johnson and Martin Cranie among those to feature, but also paid due respect to RoneyÂ following his remarkable career.
The non-league legend, who has made over 500 appearances for SheffieldÂ FC, might not have enjoyed the 11-2 scoreline with David McGoldrick (4), Mark Duffy (2) and Johnson allÂ on target. But he celebrated his late strike from the penalty spot, after Vaughan humorously went down in stages under a challenge from Richard Stearman, as if he had just won the FA Cup.
"It's been brilliant," Roney said. "I just want to thank everyone who has been a part of it and also everyone connected with Sheffield United for agreeing to come and putting the side out that they did."