Sheffield Wednesday: Why Joost van Aken is optimistic of winning his Owls fitness battle
A quick glance at Joost van Aken's Instagram account tells you everything you need to know about how seriously he is taking his recovery from ankle surgery.
Almost a month has passed since the Owls defender, drafted in from Dutch club SC Heerenveen for a fee believed to be in the region of £4m last August, went under the knife in Portugal.
And now van Aken is putting in the hard yards in the gym as he aims to be fit for the start of pre-season.
He told The Star: “I’m alright now. I had surgery a few weeks ago on my ankle. I’m walking normal now without crutches or anything.
“If everything goes well, I just need four to five more weeks and I will be fine to start pre-season.
“If I don’t have any setbacks, it (pre-season) will not be a problem.”
After the centre-half suffered his fresh injury setback, boss Jos Luhukay feared van Aken would miss the start of pre-season training, which is due to get underway on June 25.
“We must only hope and of course for Joost himself, that maybe - and that is a question - that he can start in the new pre-season,” conceded Luhukay.
Things did not go according to plan for Van Aken in first season in English football. Not only did Wednesday fail to live up to expectations and push for promotion, injuries also hindered van Aken’s progress.
He made 14 starts before suffering a hamstring injury in the Boxing Day victory over Nottingham Forest.
The knock kept him van Aken out of action for a number of months.
The 24-year-old said: “I was happy to be playing at the beginning but it was frustrating to then get the hamstring injury.”
He looked on the brink of making a first-team comeback in March, having proven his fitness in a handful of Under-23s matches.
“Joost was very happy after he came back from his hamstring (injury),” insisted Luhukay. “He had trained three weeks with the team. He trained very intensively in the gym and did a lot of core work.”
However, van Aken, capped three times at Dutch U21s level, then suffered another blow, picking up an ankle injury in training which ended his season.
“It was frustrating,” he said. “Everything was fine after the hamstring injury and I started training and was fit to play but hen the thing with the ankle happened so it was very unlucky.”
Van Aken will be hoping his luck turns for the better next season.