NICKY Weaver heads into Sheffield Wednesday’s promising New Year with a new lease of life - thanks partly to the man who saved his career eight years ago.
American specialist Richard Parker transplanted a dead man’s cartilage into his right knee.
It was this cartilage that caused a return to Cleveland, Ohio, this season for the keeper, a sixth operation on the knee and a four-month lay-off.
But the 32-year-old has regained full fitness to reclaim his Owls place and brushes aside any suggestion that he has overcome another threat to his career.
Weaver’s season was going well until his knee flared up after the 3-2 home win against Scunthorpe in August.
“It wouldn’t settle down; there were a few issues and a torn lateral meniscus [cartilage],” he said,
“Because I’d had trouble with my knee earlier, I was really keen to go to the States to see Mr Parker, who operated on me and saved my career eight years ago.
“He knows my knee better than anyone. I was really grateful that the club were able to send me there. I’d like to thank Paul Aldridge, the chairman, the manager and the medical department for allowing me to go, because obviously it did come with a cost to the club.
“When I got to the States, they weren’t exactly sure what they would find in there until they went into the knee. They sorted it out by removing the torn portion,
and doing a couple of other bits and bobs; the operation was deemed a success and they were really optimistic that I would make a full recovery and play for years to come.
“It was the sixth operation I’ve had on the knee, but the first for eight years. I had five in quick succession and I’ve played a lot of games since then.
“Dr Parker didn’t seem to think the problem was career threatening.
“It’s not unusual for a transplanted cartilage to tear, and when it does it’s quite easy to repair.”
Weaver had tried not to worry: “I went over there on my own. I had a lot of time to think. All I had in my head was that, whatever is thrown at you, you have to do what you can to get
After spending nine days in
America, he began his rehabiltation and regained fitness in three months. “Our physio department have taken good care of me, and we’ve kept in touch with Dr Parker by e-mail and over the phone.
“Touch wood, the knee feels really good. I do work every day to keep everything strong around it; that’s something I’ve done for eight years. It’s about managing and keeping on top of it,” he said.“It’s great to be back.
“I’ve been fit for quite a while. A few reserve games were
called off but I played in one against Leeds just before Christmas.”
He was sound in his league comeback at Preston last Saturday, and made two important saves against Tranmere.
With big games coming up, against West Ham in the FA Cup on Sunday, and League One leaders Charlton, his old club, the following Saturday, he knows that Stephen Bywater is ready to step in if suffers a dip in form.
“Stephen did great when I wasn’t playing. I didn’t have too much to do at Preston; it was nice to ease back into it and great to keep a clean sheet,” he said.
“Playing two gams in three days isn’t ideal when you’ve been out for so long but it felt good to get these games under my belt, and it was the same for Jon Otsemobor, as he’d been out for four months as well.
“It was nice to make a couple of saves against Tranmere; the shots were pretty much at me and I got a good view of them.”
Teams and ref
OWLS ([possible): Weaver; Otsemobor, Batth, R Jones, R Johnson; Tavernier, Semedo, Lines, J Johnson; O’Grady, Morrison (4-4-2).
HAMMERS (possible): Green, Faubert, Reid, Tomkins, McCartney, Dioup, Nolan, Noble, Collison, Cole, Baldock (4-4-2).
Keith Stroud (Hampshire): Took over this week as chief executive of Bedfordshire County FA, replacing Peter Brown, who last year came under fire for forwarding a racist joke e-mail. Stroud worked for Hampshire FA as a referee development officer and marketing and office manager.
One to watch
Sam Baldock cost almost £2 million from MK Dons in August after scoring 43 goals for them - including a hat-trick against Chesterfield in the Carling Cup this season - in 82 starts and 42 appearances as a sub. His Hammers record is nine starts, four outings from the bench and five goals.