James Gibbons is recovering well from hamstring surgery as he looks forward to challenging for a place in the Port Vale side in around three months.
The home grown 22-year-old right back has been out since he suffered the injury in the closing stages of Vale’s EFL Trophy win at Wigan on October 6.
He is hoping to be competing for a place by late January or early February but, as this is the longest he will have been out injured in his career, he is measuring his recovery week by week rather than setting firm targets.
For now, he’s pleased his recovery is on schedule.
He said: “The first two weeks after the operation were the main thing I wanted to get out of the way. With the brace on and crutches, everything, like just sleeping, was a hassle to do.
“But I’m into the fifth week and I am getting up to speed with things, mainly getting the strength back in and around the knee to support the hamstring and trying to strengthen the hamstring back up from the surgery. It is all looking positive.
“I have lost a lot of muscle in my left leg from the surgery which was expected.
“I think if I take it week by week, rather than look five or six weeks ahead, then mentally I can see the improvements and see where I am going.”
He’s grateful for the help of not only the club, but also team mates Mark Cullen and Manny Oyeleke who have had the same operation with the same surgeon in their careers.
Although he’s eager to get back into action, he says recovering fully has to be his priority.
He said: “I think it is going to be the end of January into February. But it is about taking time with it and making sure it is right rather than trying to shave off a week or two.
“The one thing I don’t want to do is come back too early and it blows up again. It is such a long time to be out for, I don’t want a repeat of the injury.”
In the meantime he is supporting the team and looking forward to challenging Mitch Clark and Zak Mills for the right back spot – and hopefully a challenge for promotion in the second half of the season.
He said: “I will be itching to get back in and put in the performances that I know I can, and the lads will be just the same to keep their place.
“It is going to be healthy competition and, if it is at the right end of the table, then that will be a massive positive for the club.”
Gibbons, from Trentham, broke into the Vale league team three years ago, but has been at the club since he was 11. So, having seen the Vale in turbulent times, including administration in 2012, he’s pleased to be part of a squad with promotion ambitions, and proud to be part of a club which has delivered more than 170,000 meals into the community over the last few months under owners Carol and Kevin Shanahan.
He said: “When I was in the academy as a young boy we went bucket collecting around the ground to try to keep the club afloat, getting in as many funds as we could.
“They were really tough times for the club so to see it now from where it was is massive. I have been here to see the change and the change in owners. It is a pleasure to be here and a pleasure to play for them.”