Aside

Operation

On Friday I had anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction. It was long overdue. I haven’t played sport for almost two years now and have missed it dearly, especially having a kickabout with my mates: it’s the social element apart from anything else. I have been told I will be playing sport again in 9 months. My aim is to play football on Christmas Day which, by my dubious calculations, is roughly when I am due back. Like the Christmas truce of 1914 I will emerge from the trenches to play the beautiful game once more. My touch, after a two year absence, is going to be atrocious… not that it was anything to write home about in the first place.

I had my operation in the Spire hospital in Bristol where Richard Hammond had spent much of his rehabilitation after an horrific car crash in 2006. A friend swears to this day that ‘The Hamster’, when at death’s door, waved to him through the window: utter codswallop. 

Until recently I had assumed Spire was exclusively a private hospital. If Carlsberg did hospitals Spire would belong to a better beer than Carlsberg. It was more like a hotel and I was as happy as Lenny Henry in a Premier Inn. The operation was however drawing closer. When impending doom awaits I tend to just not think about it, putting it to the back of my mind. So, until I was being wheeled into the operating theatre, the fact that part of my hamstring was going to be inserted into my knee remained deliberately on my periphery.

My anaesthetist was a big burly man who reminded me of Hammond’s fellow petrol-head buddy Jeremy Clarkson. He was incredibly in your face and had no awareness of personal space. My last memory before drifting off into a drug-induced coma was explaining to him that I have never been able to say the word ‘anaesthetist’. He was not amused. The general anaesthetic now rushing around my body did nothing to aid my pronunciation of the word either. Unconsciousness saved me from further humiliation.

I do not remember waking up. I was dazed for most of the afternoon and can recall back as far as watching The Alan Titchmarsh Show which had the desired sobering effect. The food was incredible. It was perhaps the six courses that gave me the false illusion that I was ready to go home. I just had to prove to the physio that I could make it down a flight of steps. Everything was going swimmingly until the penultimate step. Within a second I felt like I had ridden Space Mountain for the first time again. The physio pressed a magic button and five other women, one wielding an oxygen tank, appeared from thin air. The whole debacle was a tad embarrassing.

At least I could stay one more night in this lovely place. Watching Patrick Kielty doing a bikini-clad synchronized swimming routine for Sport Relief reassured me that perhaps my performance wasn’t that embarrassing in the grand scheme of things. I suppose I must applaud him for his contribution towards £51,242,186 total raised that night. I am almost certain however that without these biennial charity events, Patrick Kielty would have been removed from the collective consciousness just as his Fame Academy has been.

I left Spire the next morning and began the knee exercises given to me by the physio. I am under no illusions that if I want to play sport again I am going to have to put the work in. In the meantime I must be content with watching it on the box.

It was a fantastic weekend of football with 42 goals in the Premier League, one fewer than the record set in 2011. Six of these goals sailed past Wojciech Szczesny with no reply which effectively ended Arsenal’s title chase this season in Arsene Wenger’s 1000th game for the Gunners. Almost 9 years since they last won silverware Arsenal must win the FA Cup to emerge with any pride from the season. Wenger’s tenure must surely come under scrutiny if they fail to achieve this. He remains one of the greatest Premier League managers. He will nonetheless be remembered as inherently flawed as a result of his unwavering idealistic tendencies. What a brilliant but stubborn git he is. Injuries aside, Wenger’s tactics on the day were doomed from the start. Santi Cazorla was always going to be overpowered by Nemanja Matic in the midfield. Why on earth was Mathieu Flamini left on the bench until half-time when the game was already beyond Arsenal?

The weekend’s football was brought to an end with a scintillating El Clásico. Lionel Messi somehow managed to have a quiet game while notching a hat-trick as Barcelona forced their way back into a three-way title race, winning the game 4-3. It would be nice to see Atlético Madrid really pull out all the stops and maintain their form until the end of the season. For too long now La Liga has been a predictable two-horse race between Barcelona and Real Madrid. A Diego Costa-inspired Atlético Madrid have shaken it up a bit which is refreshing.

Putting my feet (and new ACL) up in front of El Clásico.

Putting my feet (and new ACL) up in front of El Clásico.

The other day I was invited for a week’s work experience at FourFourTwo magazine. FourFourTwo is a magazine that I have loved for as long as I remember and I cannot wait to get stuck in, even if it is for just a week. A month after that I will begin my Sports Journalism course. I have lots to look forward to. In the meantime, I will continue with my physiotherapy. One step at a time, one cliché at a time.