I’VE SCREEN THE BACK OF IN­JURY NIGHT­MARE

The Football League Paper - - NEWS - By Joshua Richards

LESSER men than Alex Ni­cholls may well have turned their back on foot­ball fol­low­ing a hor­rific dou­ble leg break in Oc­to­ber 2012.

The Northamp­ton striker re­quired an am­bu­lance to en­ter the Six­fields Sta­dium pitch and it re­sulted in 22 months on the side­lines.

Many a lonely hour were spent on the sofa with his foot up, but the 26-year-old put the time to good use by re-run­ning DVDs of his goals helped to wipe away any thoughts of re­tire­ment.

Now, hav­ing signed on loan for Ex­eter City, Ni­cholls is de­ter­mined to get back to what he does best.

On 27 Oc­to­ber 2012, as Ni­cholls opened the scor­ing for Northamp­ton against Port Vale, he was on the wrong end of John McCombe’s chal­lenge, with the de­fender des­per­ate to keep the ball out of the net.

The for­mer Walsall for­ward suf­fered a com­pound frac­ture of his fibula and tibia, re­quired a nail to be in­serted into his left leg to be­gin the re­pair work and un­der­went a skin graft.

His com­pet­i­tive re­turn to ac­tion came in a 14minute cameo in the Cobblers’ Cap­i­tal One Cup de­feat to Bournemouth last month – a mo­ment he’d dreamt of dur­ing his tor­tu­ous re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion.

“The thought of play­ing foot­ball again kept me mo­ti­vated,” says Ni­cholls. “I just wanted to get back to play­ing the game I love so much.

Tackle

“You do have mo­ments when you’re out for that long that you don’t want to get up and go to the gym, that you can’t see a light at the end of the tun­nel.

“It was a dif­fi­cult time, but I had to stay as pos­i­tive as I could and, for­tu­nately, I have a very sup­port­ive fam­ily who helped me ev­ery step of the way. Now I’m back and I want to start scor­ing goals again.

“I used to watch DVDs of my­self play­ing. It was a big help. I would put them on the lap­top and that did kick me into gear.

“I will def­i­nitely ap­pre­ci­ate ev­ery mo­ment of my ca­reer that much more now. I will never take another day’s train­ing for granted again.

“I can re­mem­ber be­ing at Northamp­ton as the boys were about to go out for train­ing, it was ab­so­lutely pour­ing with rain, but I was so des­per­ate to be out there with them. I am so pleased I can again.”

Ni­cholls moved to League Two strug­glers Ex­eter on dead­line day, ini­tially sign­ing a month’s loan deal.

Gre­cians boss Paul Tis­dale de­scribed the Stour­bridge-born player as a “risk worth tak­ing”, with doubts nat­u­rally over how much of the club’s packed Septem­ber sched­ule he will be ready to take part in.

Ni­cholls ac­cepts that he has some­thing to prove, but in­sists his in­jury prob­lems are a thing of the past.

“I haven’t missed a train­ing ses­sion since the start of pre-sea­son,” Ni­cholls said. “From the first friendly I never for a sec­ond thought: ‘I can’t tackle, I can’t chal­lenge, I might get in­jured again’. That’s in the past now.

“I un­der­stand there might be ques­tion marks over my fit­ness with games on Tues­day, Satur­day, Tues­day.

“But it’s up to me to prove to peo­ple that it won’t be a prob­lem. I just want to get back on the pitch and be in­volved in League foot­ball and get as many min­utes as pos­si­ble un­der my belt while I’m at Ex­eter.”

PIC­TURE: Pin­na­cle

AL BE AL­RIGHT: Alex Ni­cholls says his 22-month in­jury hell is a thing of the past after join­ing Ex­eter on loan from Northamp­ton

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