Paul Coutts admits he feels fortunate with one aspect of the devastating leg injury which ended his 2017/18 season.
The Sheffield United midfielder suffered a broken tibia in a challenge with Marvin Sordell away at Burton Albion last November, which ruled him out of the rest of that campaign.
The Scot is back in full training now, and was seen warming-up with the rest of Chris Wilder's squad before their 2-1 win at QPR on Saturday.
And, in an exclusive extract from my new book, 'He's one of our own' - the story of Chris Wilder's Sheffield United revolution, Coutts discussed the injury, the impact and the long road back to full fitness.
Coutts says: "It always seems a little strange to say that I feel lucky when I talk about breaking my leg, but it could have been far worse.
When it happened, I thought straightaway ‘I’ve broken my leg there’ but then as the adrenaline kicks in, and the gas and air hit me, I remember thinking that it might not have been so bad after all.
I didn’t want to go off on a stretcher and then train on the Monday... the gaffer would have been looking at me thinking, what’s going on there?! But by the time we got to Burton’s treatment room, the picture of the tackle was circulating on social media and one of the staff was wincing at it. I told him to let me see it and my initial thoughts were confirmed. I’d broken my leg.
In a way, the picture helped; it was pretty clear what had happened so it was fairly routine in terms of giving me morphine, calling an ambulance and everything else, but then the real luck came. Our club doctor, Subhashis Basu, was on the train home from London where he’d been watching the tennis.
He’d seen that I had come off with injury after a long stoppage, so got off the train early at Derby and got a taxi straight to the hospital to meet me. I’m so glad he did.
The doctors there wanted to put me in a cast below my knee only, and Dr Baz, as we know him, fell out with them until they agreed to put me in a full leg cast.
When I got to Sheffield to see the specialist, he said: ‘thank God it was a full leg cast or it would have moved further’ because it wouldn’t have been stable. In the end, the bone was only 10 percent unaligned and would have been much worse if Dr Baz hadn’t got off that train. He saved me an operation, and probably a couple more months in the gym, so I’m really grateful for that.
I remember waiting for the ball to come down out of the air, but it seemed to take ages. I had one eye on the ball and the other on Marvin Sordell, waiting for him to make his move so I could chest the ball around him. But he didn’t, so I thought I could hit it first time.
I don’t know what I was doing that far forward but I caught the ball really sweetly, and then he’s lunged over late and I’ve caught the sole of his boot with my shin. Then I heard the crack. Jake Buxton, who I know from Derby and who’s quite a hard man, was slapping me on the back, asking if I was alright. I’d been better!
I initially thought I’d broken my tibia and fibula but somehow the thinner bone held on, which again was quite fortunate. The ambulance took ages to come and arrived just as the game was finishing, so fans were banging on the windows and singing my song.
I was on morphine by then so had a chuckle about it, talking to people on FaceTime and generally buzzing that we’d gone top of the league. It was only when I spoke to people the next day that I realised how down people were about it. I was thinking ‘we’re top of the league... what are you on about?’
They were obviously feeling sympathy for me, but I was just concerned about the group. We were set in our team selection and shape at that point, and everyone knew how the pattern of the game would go pretty quickly after kick-off, because we just asserted ourselves.
If we’d lost any one of the other players, it’d have a similar effect. That’s how I see it, anyway. The most painful part actually came when I went to see the specialist, and the cast was so bad that I couldn’t sit on the toilet or anything like that.
So they agreed to cut it just to the knee, but I couldn’t move my toes into the right position. So the specialist grabbed my foot and moved it into place himself. That was more sore than the tackle itself... it was unbelievable.
I’ve also realised that I’m a terrible watcher of games, too. It’s weird, really; when I’m playing and people say afterwards ‘why didn’t you do this or that?’ it looks completely different down on the pitch. It’s so much harder.
Then I go into the stand with my leg in a cast and start saying ‘ah, why has he done this or not done that?’ It looks so much easier from the stands! I know it’s not but I can’t convince myself. It was horrible to watch the boys, knowing I couldn’t do anything to help them.
But I’ve no concerns about getting back to full fitness. The bone will be stronger, I know my body now more than when I was younger and also my role in the team - and I have a manager who trusts me, too, which helps."