All aboard the emotional rollercoaster
The finishing line is in sight!
For some teams, the season is over. Some are celebrating automatic promotion, some just happy to get a break from a mediocre season and some dreading next season in a lower league and all its implications. Some staff are just hoping to have a job next year and, for some, the future is still in their hands with the play-off finals at Wembley coming up.
I have been lucky enough to go to Wembley and experience the magnificent atmosphere at a final. The facilities are excellent and what changing-room we have been in hasn’t affected our results! When you come out for the start of the game, with the stadium divided into two sets of fans, it is awe-inspiring. There is nothing like that in this country. It’s a buzz that you never forget.
Being involved in the play-offs is a rollercoaster of emotions. The potential success is enormous for clubs, particularly financially. It can make or break clubs. The extra money available from promotion can revolutionise the structure of all the departments, including medical. More experienced staff, better equipment – all aimed at avoiding relegation the following year.
For the teams in the play-offs, the season is extended for three more weeks. The day-to-day schedule remains basically the same. The management have to work hard to ensure players keep focus, keep sharp and fit but not to the detriment of them picking up injuries. It’s a fine balance.
I have been through the play-offs a few times and the killer is getting all the way to the final only to fall short. It is devastating and can destroy your summer break. What if this and what if that? On top of that, you can be back a week earlier, too, as the Football League usually starts a week before the Premier League, especially when there is a summer tournament. Next season, the Premier and League will kick off on the same day, August 18.
This time of the year is always a hectic time in the medical department, looking after the injured players that have accumulated but, even more so, when an important final game beckons. Unlike the rest of the season, where you are just working to get the player fit as soon as possible, there is a fundamental deadline, a specific date that the player has to reach. With suspensions, some players are not available, which puts added pressure on getting their replacements fit in time.
Players are desperate to play in the big games. It is what they work hard to achieve. It really shows how powerful the desire to play can be when players want to be available despite carrying injuries. At the moment, Manchester United have about 10 injuries and Manchester City hardly any but those with borderline issues will do anything to be fit for title-deciding games.
The opposite is also the case. When there is nothing to play for, it is difficult to get the players out on the training field. Some cannot be bothered. They make more of injuries they have been carrying over the season to avoid playing any more games. When the team is relegated or has nothing to play for, the last few weeks can’t go quickly enough. You just want to get away for your holiday.
On the subject of which … have a good summer!