James Gibbons expressed how he is remaining positive and feeling stronger each week as he begins his road to recovery following a hamstring injury sustained against Wigan Athletic early last month.
The right-back explained how his operation, which he undertook soon after picking up the injury, was a successful one, adding how his rehabilitation programme has gotten off to a promising start, leaving him upbeat about the road ahead.
Gibbons’ rehab programme, set by his surgeon, has been underway for a couple of weeks now, with him crediting head physio Chris Banks for the daily work they have been doing together in helping to rebuild his confidence and muscle mass.
He stated: “[I’m] much better now, I’m out the brace and off my crutches, I think the first two-three weeks after the operation was the hardest to get through due to the lack of movement, but I’ve started my rehab and it’s all going well and started looking positive going forward.
“I’ve been doing work off the surgeon, what he thinks is best for me, so he sent a rehab programme through and I work with Banko [Banks] everyday getting the basic movements back in my hamstring and getting used to being out the brace and off the crutches.
“I’ve lost muscle in my leg so this month is all about building it back up, getting the strength back in and around the knee and supporting my hamstring for when it recovers properly for when I’m on the pitch running again.”
The long period on the sideline has been a new experience for Gibbons, but he highlighted how helpful the support of teammates Mark Cullen and Manny Oyeleke has been as they have both suffered the same injury during their careers, with Gibbons adding how desperate he is to get back on the pitch and help the team out.
He said: “It’s all new to me, the longest I’ve been out is probably a month, but a there’s a couple of the lads who have had the same injury, Culls [Cullen] and Manny [Oyeleke] have been brilliant with me, they’ve been talking me through their rehab and what they were doing when they had the operation.
“Touch wood it never happens again, because missing such a large chunk of the season does hurt you, not being out there playing with the lads, and you just want to be out there helping them.”
Maintaining a positive mind-set during the recovery process has been and remains essential to Gibbons, who emphasised how he feels he has a strong mentality, taking each stage of recovery as it comes and focussing on get back onto the pitch.
He stated: “Although injuries like this test you, I stay mentally strong with it all, you just take it week by week, you don’t want to get too ahead of yourself.
“I’ve been given five phases on my rehab programme and we’ve just come out of phase one, so I’m not looking further than phase two until that’s complete, so I can see improvements week by week and hopefully come January and February start looking forward to training and playing again.”
The Injury to Gibbons was accompanied by an injury to fellow right-back Zak Mills, something which saw the club bring Mitch Clark back on loan from Leicester City, and Gibbons hailed Clark for how much quality he adds to the team.
Gibbons stated how strong of a start to life back at Vale Park Clark has had, acknowledging that there will be strong competition for the starting spot once everyone is fit, a challenge Gibbons looks forward to.
He said: “Everyone knows what Mitch can do and what he’s capable of, we’ve had him the last two years now and we know what he is able to do and I think that’s why the gaffer’s brought him in.
“He [Askey] trusts him [Clark] and he knows what he’s about and he does produce it on the pitch, so that was a positive signing with me and Zak being out, but come January-February, provides massive competition again and I’ll be itching to get back in, so it’s all healthy competition.”
When discussing how the team have started the season, Gibbons commended the side for how well they have begun the campaign, but stressed the importance of maintaining focus during the hectic schedule, mentioning how key the squad depth will prove going forward.
He said: “We started off where we left off last year, it was nothing but positive at the back-end of last season and if it wasn’t for the lockdown then who knows what would’ve happened because we’d hit form at the right time.
“The lads have started brilliantly, but there’s a lot of games and a lot of points to be won in a short amount of time, we played eight games last month and the table’s going to change drastically over the course of the season.
“If you can string two or three wins together you’re usually right up there again and it’s such a strange and unpredictable season this year, teams are going to be rotating but the good thing with us is we’ve got good strength in depth.”