Saturday, June 15, 2024

Come back stronger

Good morning from a very wet and miserable Dublin.

Can I just start with a ‘fair play’ to whoever at the official website decided to run this story of Arsenal players taking photographs from down the years?! Splendid stuff in the wake of some comments made on TV and elsewhere about the post-Liverpool celebrations. If getting behind the lens is good enough for Dennis Bergkamp and Thierry Henry, let that be the very end of it.

Also on the official site, a nice feature with Jurrien Timber, who was mentioned yesterday after he was added to the Champions League squad for the remainder of the season. He spoke about his injury, and while it’s obviously really difficult to suffer something like that in your first game for a new club – especially after a really promising pre-season – he’s looking for a way to make the most of something traumatic.

These months will definitely make me stronger. It’s an opportunity for me to do well. So even though I’m not playing, I can take this moment to become stronger mentally, physically, and also to feel at home with this group of boys.

It’s an opportunity I’ve taken with both hands. I’ve had some more time to watch the team, see how we play, how I can fit in when I get on the pitch, so looking at the positives, I think there have been many.

The ‘come back stronger’ line is one of those you hear players use all the time when it comes to injury. I guess it’s the equivalent of ‘We’ll work harder on the training ground’ after a bad defeat – the kind of soundbite poor old Johan Djourou was almost always wheeled out to provide during one period in this club’s history. Then again, I wonder is it a mindset you absolutely have to have.

I don’t mean as just a kind of coping mechanism, because imagine how difficult it is to sign for a club like Arsenal, dreaming of what your first season might be, and then you get that kind of injury in your first Premier League game. All that promise is gone in an instant, and anyone who has ever played football at any level understands just how disheartening it is when you can’t. Whether it’s Sunday League or Premier League, you live for the matches and the competition, and then it’s gone. Clearly it’s a different experience for professionals, for all kinds of reasons, but that feeling in the pit of your stomach is the same.

Then there’s the surgery, the recovery, the rehab, and all the time your teammates are out there training and playing, doing the thing you want to do most. Setting that target of C.B.S – Coming Back Stronger – must be part of the desire to make up for lost time too. It’s a shock when you find yourself sidelined for 3 or 6 or 9 months. Sadly, it’s often obvious that despite those best efforts, despite the best possible care and all the effort in rehab, that the player hasn’t come back stronger at all. That they have been diminished, robbed of qualities which made them special.

I wonder if sometimes we think about injured players in the abstract, and not enough about their experience. Of course it depends on the player and their history. In some cases there is almost zero sympathy for them or their physical problems. Football fans can be utterly ruthless. There’s a sliding scale from ‘How sad for this young player’ through to ‘Not again’ to ‘Oh FFS’ all the way to ‘Get rid!’.

There comes a point where we no longer think about the difficulties they might be experiencing, and instead focus on the issues that their injuries bring to our team. And look, that’s how it goes. The fact they are very well paid professional athletes provides them with a kind of safety net that most people don’t experience or benefit from in their own careers. That said, Bob Dodgyknee the professional footballer is, let’s remember, distinct from Bob Dodgyknee the person, the human.

Anyway, let’s hope that Jurrien Timber does come back stronger and better for his unfortunate experience. We might talk a bit about this in an upcoming podcast special – and if you have any questions for it, we have a post on Twitter you can reply to. We’ll pick some of the best and have a good chat about them.

For now, have a good one folks.

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