INJURIES are part and parcel of life at any football club, but the length of Reading’s current casualty list is unusual. After six games of this season they now have nearly a dozen players crocked.
These players aren’t just peripheral squad players but all who could reasonably expect to start in the first team. Every game another one bites the dust. Shaun Cummings took just 20 seconds to pick up an injury in the Capital One Cup win at Scunthorpe.
Jordan Obita, Michael Hector and Aaron Tshibola took a little longer to come a cropper in Saturday’s 4-0 defeat at Nottingham Forest. Pavel Pogrebnyak hobbled off at the end of the Huddersfield defeat. And so the list goes on.
The irony is of all the managers in the Football League, Nigel Adkins is the best qualified to first prevent, and if required cure, injuries.
He trained as a physio and before taking over as manager at Scunthorpe was doing the physio’s job. It was an unusual route into management.
“Who needs Mourinho? We’ve got our physio,” they used to sing at Glanford Park, when Adkins first took over.
He rightly points out injuries to senior players gives youngsters an opportunity they would not otherwise receive.
Jake Cooper, Aaron Kuhl and Ryan Edwards have looked particularly impressive and will be benefiting from the experience, but ultimately Adkins would rather not have his hand forced.
Is the rush of injuries simply bad luck or can anything be done to reduce the risk of players picking them up. The usual argument is contact injuries sustained in matches are unavoidable but during training are unforgivable.
Tweaks and strains will happen and any measure that can be taken to reduce the risk is worth taking.
Everything at Reading is scientific and regulated. The players wear heart rate monitors even during gentle post match cool downs. They all do exactly the same stretching and warm up routines. Everything is recorded and analysed.
There is great attention to detail, planning and thought behind every decision. The sports science is the very most up to date. Nothing is left to chance.
The problem is every athlete functions differently. Robotically going through the same pre-match routine as your mate with a tight hamstring may be fine for him, but might not necessarily be the best thing for the long-term ankle niggle you have been managing.
If you ask old-school ex-players they will say the base level of fitness is not there. Running up sand dunes and lung-busting pre-season laps of the pitch is yesterday’s way, but it did instil a mental toughness and physical endurance lacking today.
“If I don’t see puke on the pitch they’re not ready for the season,” one player who made his name in the Seventies told me on the way to a pre-season game a few years back. Needless to say the dinosaur was left disappointed.
Adkins does have two weeks to patch up his injured players after this weekend’s trip to Middlesbrough.
A detailed review of what they do in training is required. Change is not necessarily the answer, but it must be worth at least asking a few tough questions among the staff about the best player preparation and how to avoid any more injuries.