Megan Campbell’s manager at Manchester City recently welcomed her back to training declaring she was nearing a return after “three years and eight months” out.
Nick Cushing’s comment was in jest but was a reminder, as if she needed one, to Ireland full back and long-throw specialist Campbell that this has been a long time coming.
She is targeting the February 3 FA Cup clash with Watford for a return to first-team action after 15 months out with a cruciate knee ligament injury.
Before that, she missed more than a year with an ankle injury as she has spent more time on the treatment table than off it since joining City from Florida State in 2016.
But City are keen to have her back – she was thrown straight into action in the 2017 FA Cup final just weeks after getting over her ankle problem – and have extended her contract.
Campbell, 25, said: “My contract runs out at the end of this month, but we’ve agreed to continue it, extend it until summer, it keeps me settled for another four or five months.
“After the injury, when the process started getting tough they were ‘don’t worry, we’ll sort you out until the end of the season’ so I knew it was coming.”
She had hoped to return to action before the start of this season but there were setbacks in the summer though she is now back involved in training in the last ten days.
“What was that like? My head was telling me what to do but my feet weren’t carrying me to do that. It took a while. There was a bit of hesitancy because you’re thinking ‘I don’t want to do it again’.
“I stretched for a ball and felt something going in my knee. My face just went pale. One of my teammates said ‘Are you ok?’
“I said, ‘It doesn’t feel good’ but it’s about learning about the aches and the pains compared to doing something serious. I think I’ll have that for a while because it was such a long-term injury.
“But once I get going again it will soon disappear.
“I got a bit of slagging as well. The manager was saying ‘We’ve a milestone today, Megan is back. She’s only been out for three years and eight months!’”
She admits that the road back has been mentally tough and there were moments when she feared his career may be over.
“It’s definitely something that always goes through my head. I’ve had a few long-term injuries recently and it does come into your head: what if this is the end or if this happens again will it be the end of my career.
“Because it took so long, mentally you think, ‘I don’t even want to play any more’. There were times when I didn’t want to go training, didn’t want to do nothing.
“But it’s about trying to lift yourself out of that hole and going, ‘well, there is an end and no matter what level it’s at I will get back playing again’.
“To have the girls around you in the team pushing you and wanting you back and willing you on – it’s nice to have that support and it does drive you on.”
But, now close a return, she is looking forwards to finishing this season strongly with City and also a return to the Ireland fold.
Ireland boss Colin Bell is keen to have her back and even contacted her to see if she would be fit to return for this week’s training camp and friendly with Belgium.
That has come too soon but, with games coming up in February, March and April, she is hoping of being involved ahead of the 2021 Euro qualifiers that begin next season.
“He wants me in and around the team. It’s nice to have his backing. February 21 is the qualifying draw.