By Daniel JonesUnlike the majority of us, Rovers’ number one Steve Mildenhall will not be enjoying tucking into his roast turkey this Christmas. The only thing on his mind will be the frustration of missing out on the flurry of games coming up as we head into the New Year.
Mildenhall was forced off late in the first half of Rovers’ goalless draw away to Wrexham two weeks ago with a knee injury, and without a recognised keeper on the bench, centre back Mark McChrystal came on in his place.
Rovers’ first choice stopper is struggling coping with life out of the game, but is confident he can return sooner rather than later: “It’s moving forward, it’s still sore and painful in certain movements, everything’s great in straight lines when I’m moving my leg, it’s when I try to open my leg up.
“I’m a nightmare to deal with when I’m injured, because I’m always trying to push and go quicker than what I probably should do. But I’ll take my time with it, it needs to be right, it’s just unfortunate to come in the Christmas period with so many games.
“Some people have told me I need to look at the silver lining, I’ve Christmas off, but I’m kind of institutionalised now, for me Christmas is football, it’s not being at home spending lots of time, but to me it’s football, that’s what my Christmas is, so it’s going to be weird for me, not playing.”
Despite time at home not sounding too appealing to Mildenhall, going to watch his teammates sounds like an even worse prospect: “This is going to sound strange, and people always find it funny, but I hate watching football.
“I get frustrated, I’m not one that likes watching when I can’t play, it’s frustrating because you can’t contribute to anything, and as much as it sounds harsh you’re useless to a club if you’re injured. The gaffer’s joked with me a couple of times saying ‘you’re dead to me when you’re injured’, but in a way it’s true.”
With Mildenhall out, Christmas would have provided the perfect opportunity for second choice Will Puddy to try and stake a claim as number one, but instead, Puddy finds himself next to his compatriot in the treatment room with a cracked elbow. Mildenhall is sad to see his competitor miss out:
“Fortunately for me in my career , apart from a small period at Millwall, I’ve never had that situation of being number 2, but I found that time a very frustrating period, so with me being injured and poor old pudds is there too, and we’re in the gym together and he’s pulling his hair out.
“For me Will [Puddy] is a very good goalkeeper, we are very lucky to have him at the club too, we push each other for the place in training all the time, I feel for him I really do.”
The injury will take longer to recover from than was first hoped, with the scan revealing the injury was classed as grade two, which means he will be out for a minimum of four to six weeks. Mildenhall recognises that he needs to be patient and work with club physio Phil Kite to recover more quickly:
“We’re getting there and I’ve got a time frame in mind that I would like but obviously with injuries you’ve got to be realistic, you can’t get too carried away because then if you don’t make what time you think, you start to get yourself down, so we’ll take it day by day, the physios going to look after me, and hopefully I will be back sooner rather than later.”