Heading into the campaign, many expected 22-year-old Jon Flanagan to establish himself as the first name off the bench at either fullback position, and his positional flexibility and solid defensive play seemed set to make him an invaluable squad member. Then, in pre-season, he suffered a knee injury that required surgery. It was expected to keep him out until the winter.
Instead, the winter months rolled around and Flanagan was nowhere to be seen. As the months passed, the club kept suggesting that Flanagan was preparing to return, that he had begun solo training, that he would be good to go in a few short weeks. Invariably, he would suffer a setback or regression or simply not be anything like as far along in his recovery as everybody thought, and as April ends, the wait goes on.
That wait today has gotten even longer, with news that Flanagan has had to undergo another surgery on the knee and that he will be expected to be out another three months as he recovers from this latest setback. If he is fortunate, he may be fit in time to rejoin the club for its pre-season preparations, but even that is far from clear at this stage. About all that is clear is Flanagan won’t play a minute this season.
The situation is further complicated by the fact that the fullback’s contract runs down this summer, and there will likely be a great deal of uncertainty as to how to proceed. The club were believed to have offered Flanagan a new deal last summer, but with the player coming off the best months of his career, he was reluctant to sign, hoping a strong showing in 2014-15 would improve his position.
Instead, all 2014-15 has done is make things less clear. A bad knee injury is about the worst thing that can befall a football player, and with Flanagan undergoing another surgery on it this week, there will be questions asked about whether he will ever be able to get back to his form of last season. There may even be doubts as to whether he will ever be capable of playing top flight football again.
Nothing, then, is especially clear when it comes to Flanagan’s future. At least beyond the fact that he will end the current season without having played a minute of first team football and that his contract expires at the end of June.