Swansea City defender Neil Taylor left hospital today sporting a steely determination to look on the bright side of life, despite being ruled out for the rest of the season with a badly broken ankle.
Taylor was stretchered off after just 20 minutes of last Saturday’s Barclays Premier League draw with Sunderland after a tackle on Craig Gardner left him with a dislocated ankle that was fractured in three places.
The injury was deemed so serious that Taylor was informed after lengthy surgery that it could have been “career-threatening”.
But watching the Paralympics on TV from his hospital bed at Morriston Hospital, the 23-year-old declared: “Now that is real courage and heart.
“I’m obviously devastated about the injury, but if those athletes can overcome what they’ve had to face, then who am I to moan? I have to show the same determination and do it for myself.
“I’m mentally strong, which helps, and I’ve got the support of my family and a beautiful and healthy wife and daughter. Some other people haven’t got that and I owe it to them to battle my way back.
“In fact I want to come back fitter and stronger. I’ve got a year to work on strengthening other parts of my body and come back like a new signing raring to go.’’
Taylor faces a long and often lonely road to recovery. It will be four weeks of complete rest with his leg raised, and up to 12 weeks before the ankle can expect to be fully weight bearing again.
Only after those three months can the Welsh international even start to think about stepping up his rehabilitation. And he’s already been told to forget about any miracle comebacks this season.
“The surgeon told me that the operation went as well as it could have, but it was a really bad injury with a dislocation and three breaks,’’ added Taylor. “They put the ankle back together as perfect as possible.
“In a lot of cases they said it would have been a career-threatening injury, but they have given me a great chance of making a full recovery.
“I was lucky that Morriston Hospital’s foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeon, Paul Williams, was on club duty at the stadium when it happened. He put the dislocation back in at the ground and top surgeon, Professor Pallister, was on hand at the hospital to carry out the surgery. I couldn’t have been in better hands and I would like to thank them for their care and skill.’’
Taylor has also had plenty of support from the footballing fraternity with Swans boss Michael Laudrup visiting him in hospital, along with Wales manager Chris Coleman who spoke about his comeback as a player from a serious car crash.
The telephone calls have come from his Swans team-mates, plus the likes of Craig Bellamy, Aaron Ramsey and Sam Ricketts who have all experienced long-term injury problems.
“They said they knew where my head is at the moment because they’ve experienced the same thing, but there is a road to recovery and with the medical facilities available today then I can come back stronger.
“I know there are going to be bad days; set-backs along the way, but I’ve got to stay mentally strong.
“The Gaffer (Laudrup) said it was a massive blow to lose me, but it was important I rest and take my time with my rehabilitation before kicking on and attacking next season full on.’’
When that day comes, Taylor is adamant he won’t change his style, even if his brave, no-nonsense tackling proved his eventual downfall against Sunderland.
“It was a freak accident, one of those things,’’ he added. “I have always been a tackling full-back and I will remain so. That’s part of my game; to try and win the ball from people.
“I certainly don’t apportion any blame on Craig Gardner. We both went in to win the ball; his momentum carried him forward and my momentum took me backwards. I couldn’t get my foot out of the ground. My studs were stuck and the weight of him just popped the ankle out.
“I knew straight away something was wrong. I didn’t look that long at the ankle, but when the pain started rushing to it I knew it was pretty bad.
“But, like I said, it was just one of those things. If my foot hadn’t got stuck in the ground we would have both got up and got on with it.
“I’m not one to dwell on things. I’ve had a great year in the Premier League and played in the Olympics with Team GB, but I’ve always said in interviews that you’ve got to take it as it comes.
“You’ll have good games and bad games; good days and bad days; good press and bad press. That’s football.’’