Goalkeeper Chris Kirkland has heaped praise on Sheffield Wednesday’s medical staff for helping him turn around his fortunes.
The former England international was plagued by a number of injury problems before he moved to Hillsborough in May 2012.
But the switch to South Yorkshire resurrected Kirkland’s faltering career. He started every single Championship match in his first year with the Owls and went on to play a further 36 times last season as Stuart Gray’s side finished 16th in the standings.
“All of the medical team have helped me enormously,” he told The Star. “The physio Paul Smith has been great and let me get on with things. It’s been down to everybody that I have played more matches.
“I do a lot of work away from the training ground. I work very hard on my core, my back and hamstrings which they know I do. The gym work I do is extremely hard.
“It was a decision I made a couple of years ago that I needed to spend more time in the gym. I had a lot of problems with my back which have cleared up now. I still get the occasional stiff back but who doesn’t. If my back is a bit sore, they give me the days off which is great. It’s about managing my body.
“I’m 33 and the last two years have been great because I’ve found a routine that works.”
Kirkland has also thanked goalkeeping coach Andy Rhodes for his support.
“Andy has always had my back,” he said. “I can’t put into words what he’s done for me.
“Andy knows when I need a break and when I need to do certain things.
“Sometimes you don’t get that at other clubs so it is worth its weight in gold when you do.”
Kirkland could have gone elsewhere this summer. The 33-year-old turned down interest from several other clubs to pen a new one-year contract with Wednesday last week.
He said: “It was always my intention to re-sign. It was just a matter of when. We knew it was going to be done. There were just a few bits that needed to be sorted out. It’s done now and I can’t wait for the new season.
“I could have gone to a couple of other clubs. I still had interest in me on the day I penned a new deal! But I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time here. The fans have been great and the gaffer has been superb.”
On the one-year contract, Kirkland said: “I probably could have signed a longer deal if I wanted but I said let’s give it a year. The intention is to get in the team and stay in it. I’m sure come January we will have talks over extending it. It’s a year and everyone knows where they stand.”
Kirkland, who began his career at Coventry City, says Gray played a “massive part” in his decision to stay put.
“Stu has treated me with respect from day one,” he said. “All the guys love working for him.
“He’s a gentleman but he demands a lot out of his players. All the lads know they can’t cross a line with him but he’s very fair.
“If you do need a day off, Stu’s very understanding.”
Wednesday’s Under-21s slipped to a 3-1 friendly defeat at Matlock Town last night. Emmanuel Dieseruvwe was on target for the visitors in the second half.