Paul Coutts, Sheffield United’s influential midfielder, has no doubts that he will recover fully from the horrific broken leg that ended his season - both physically and mentally.
The Scot suffered a broken tibia away at Burton Albion in November and missed the rest of the Championship season, as United finished 10th and flirted with the play-offs in their first campaign back in the second tier.
Many Blades fans cite Coutts’ injury as the moment that United’s season, which threatened a second successive automatic promotion bid before the turn of the year, began to tail off, and some fears have been raised that the 29-year-old will not be the player he was when he returns to action this season.
But Blades boss Chris Wilder revealed last week that Coutts has been pencilled-in to feature in United’s pre-season programme ahead of August 4’s season opener at home to Swansea City, and Coutts said: “It can sometimes take a bit of time to get back into a rhythm, but I feel more comfortable now coming back from injury than when I was younger.
“I know what’s expected of me now and my role in the team is more settled, rather than playing right-wing or more narrow. I’m more comfortable than ever with my game, which will help me come back.
“In terms of the actual injury itself, it doesn’t really bother me. I know my body and I wouldn’t be allowed out on the training ground until it’s completely safe, so there’s no risk involved. The bone will be stronger, it’s just a case of getting back up to the level I was at before.
“That’s what I’m focusing on now but as I say, I’m more comfortable doing that now. I have experience under my belt, a manager who trusts me and who I trust, and a role I am comfortable and familiar with.”
Coutts suffered a serious knee injury at his former club Derby County, but insists his broken leg is a far more straightforward issue to recover from and worked through the summer to give himself the best possible opportunity of appearing in pre-season.
“I know from experience that you can get left behind when you get a bad injury, but I’ve been quite lucky with the support I’ve had from the fans, the manager and my teammates,” Coutts added, in an extract taken from the upcoming book ‘He’s one of our own: the story of Chris Wilder’s Blades revolution.’
“At Derby, I was injured and got forgotten about as the team moved on and I suddenly wasn’t needed after playing every week. That’s football, though.
“I just know now that I’m not a good watcher of games, at all. When I’m down on the pitch and people say ‘why didn’t you do this or that?’ I always tell them it looks completely different from where we are, and it’s so much harder.
“Then I go in the stand and start asking ‘why hasn’t he done this or that?’ It looks so much easier from the stands! I know it’s not but I can’t convince myself. It’s been annoying; it’s not great watching.
“I ran out of time for last season, of course, but the summer gave me more time to heal and get my fitness up ahead of the lads coming back. But in some ways that could have been a blessing. If I was trying to rush back, that wouldn’t be the right thing to do and I wouldn’t want to. So it’s probably worked out as well as it could have.”