The Football League Paper - - INSIDE - By Jamie Holt

WHEN seek­ing in­spi­ra­tion to help get over his dream trans­fer be­com­ing an in­jury night­mare, Derby’s Ge­orge Thorne found it closer to home than ex­pected in the shape of club cap­tain Shaun Barker.

Just four days af­ter com­plet­ing a £3m move from West Brom in July, Thorne was crocked dur­ing a pre-sea­son friendly against Zenit Saint Peters­burg.

The an­te­rior cru­ci­ate lig­a­ment in­jury in his left knee has kept the mid­fielder out for seven long months, dur­ing which time he knuck­led down along­side skip­per Barker, who is in the midst of his own re­mark­able come­back.


Barker has needed three op­er­a­tions af­ter dis­lo­cat­ing his knee and rup­tur­ing lig­a­ments in March 2012. The 32-year-old has not played a first-team game since and his wife, Bec, re­cently ad­mit­ted she once feared he would never walk again.

The club cap­tain, though, is on his way back. The cen­tre-back re­turned to train­ing in Jan­uary and played for Derby’s U21s last month. And, while Thorne says his own re­cov­ery has been ar­du­ous, fight­ing his way back along­side Barker has put things into clearer fo­cus.

“Hav­ing some­one like Barks around is an in­spi­ra­tion not just for me but for ev­ery­one at the club and foot­ball in gen­eral,” said Thorne, who made his re­turn in last Satur­day’s 3-2 home win against Sh­effield Wed­nes­day.

“The men­tal strength he has had to main­tain over the last few years is just amaz­ing. He is a credit to him­self.

“It puts things into per­spec­tive a bit. An ACL in­jury is now com­mon and there are dif­fer­ent ways of deal­ing with it, but with Shaun it has been a very dif­fi­cult time, and he’s had lots and lots of lit­tle set­backs as well.

“He’s been a big help, as has Paul Coutts (now Sh­effield United) who also suf­fered from a se­ri­ous knee in­jury. We’ve all helped each other when we needed to, and we’d like to see Shaun back on the pitch for Derby as soon as pos­si­ble.”

On Barker’s re­turn to first-team train­ing a few weeks ago, striker Jamie Ward jok­ingly in­tro­duced him to the rest of the squad as a new sign­ing.

Barker took it in good spir­its, but Thorne – de­spite spend­ing the lat­ter half of last sea­son on loan at Derby – could well feel like the new kid on the block at the IPRO Sta­dium.

How­ever, it is not the first time the for­mer Eng­land U19 in­terna- tional has been kick­ing his heels on the side­lines. Thorne suf­fered the same lig­a­ment in­jury while with West Brom in Fe­bru­ary 2013, al­beit in his right knee, so he knew what to ex­pect.


“It wasn’t ideal to get the in­jury just a few days af­ter sign­ing for the club, I was on such a high af­ter com­plet­ing my move,” added the 22-year-old.

“Once I got my head around it, I knew the re­hab that was re­quired, so I just had to get my head down, and I’m grate­ful for ev­ery­one who sup­ported me.

“I didn’t think I’d suf­fered such a se­ri­ous in­jury at the time, I couldn’t be­lieve it. I’d had a sim­i­lar in­jury al­ready, the ACL in my right knee play­ing for West Brom, and on that oc­ca­sion I was out for ten months. I thought this time the dam­age was min­i­mal so I was gut­ted when it was so se­ri­ous.

“It took me a good few days to get over it, but I did and I knew I’d have to work hard.”

With Derby fly­ing in their quest for a Pre­mier League re­turn, Thorne has no in­ten­tion of miss­ing out on a po­ten­tial pro­mo­tion party come May.

“I need to be sen­si­ble with it, it will have to be a grad­ual buildup but there are still lots of im­por­tant games to come so I’m not rush­ing,” he con­tin­ued. “I trust the gaffer (Steve McClaren). If he de­cides it is grad­ual then I’m happy with that.

“It’s quite sim­i­lar to last sea­son when I came in on loan. There were prob­a­bly a cou­ple more games left in the sea­son last time, plus the play-offs, but we’re in a good po­si­tion.

“The plan is to avoid the play­offs this time round, though!”

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Images

THORNE IN THE SIDE: Ge­orge Thorne is so glad to be back play­ing for the Rams. In­sets: Shaun Barker suf­fers his hor­ror in­jury and trains in the snow on his long road to re­cov­ery

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