He was only on the pitch for 24 minutes, but 24 minutes was all it took for Martin Kelly to end up injured yet again when he returned from six months on the sidelines with a ruptured ACL against Manchester United in the League Cup. For a player who has gained an ever growing reputation for being injury prone, to say it was the last thing he needed would be an understatement.
"You have to have a lot of patience in football as well as knowing [that] when you are given your chance you have to take it," he said of his latest knock, thankfully far less serious that the one that came before and with the defender expected to be ready for first team action again following the break. "It has taken a long time to get back to full fitness [but] I feel really strong physically now and I am biding my time to get my chance and [will] grab it with both hands."
Had he not suffered a setback against United, it's likely Kelly would have had that chance over the past month. Glen Johnson's injury has since then forced Jordan Henderson into a right wingback role as Brendan Rodgers experiments with formations, and while the manager has begun to appreciate the resulting 3-5-2, it's likely the right back role in a more usual 4-2-3-1 would have been Kelly's to lose had he been healthy.
"It has taught me to look after myself in terms of what my body needs to cope with the demands of the Premier League," he added when asked what he's learned from those recent injury struggles. "Over the past 12 months I’ve been getting myself to a physical condition which will cater for that and I’m raring to go to get that chance."
In the meantime, he's been working his way back to fitness with the U21s. It may not be the same level of competition as at the senior level, but Kelly believes it's done wonders for his confidence—particularly when it comes to his ACL, an injury that players can take years to fully come back from as much because of the mental aspects of recovery as the physical ones.
"For confidence in terms of my knee it has been fantastic," he said, "but it is much more difficult playing in the Premier League and Capital One Cup than reserve team level. I’ve done those few games as a physical aspect and I’m glad they’ve had me—it has been vital for my rehab. I had to be confident and the injury I had does knock your confidence, but I’m past that barrier now and ready to push on."
Unfortunately for Kelly and his chances, with Glen Johnson expected back following the international break, he may have to wait a while longer yet despite finally—yet again—having worked his way back to full fitness.