The promise on display during Joe Gomez’ first month at Liverpool was clear, and if things became a little less positive when he was asked to play as an isolated attacking fullback shortly before he fell injured, the reality was that he was never a player who was going to look good as an isolated attacking fullback.
He simply didn’t have the tools to fill that role. In a more defensive role as a fullback a flat back four, a role that spoke to his projection as a skillful, cultured centre half, he showed immense promise and even as a 19-year-old already looked good enough to play a key first team role at the club. Then, he tore his ACL.
“It was a tough year for me, but it meant a lot to get my first minutes on the pitch,” Gomez told the club’s official website following his recent 45 minute return to action with the U23s after nearly an entire year spent sidelined. “It was a long time away from it. It meant a lot and it was a relief to get playing again.
“I dreamt of it for a long time, as you can imagine, so it was good. After a long-term injury, you’ve got to be careful with how far you push it. I’ve just got to be patient and build up my minutes, gradually taking my time getting back to full fitness. It’s all part of the journey.”
Now, that journey has begun. But with how long Gomez was out, it won’t be a quick return to the first team, and countless players with ACL injuries serve as a lesson in the fact that it might not be until next season that Gomez is fully fit and able to compete without fear and hesitation.
Recently, Liverpool players like Lucas Leiva and Martin Kelly have torn ACLs, and even when they recover from the initial injury there can be complications—minor knocks and strains caused by the long layoff. It can be a long road, one that requires a great deal of patience. Gomez, though, says he’s ready for that.
“The way the team is playing, it is the sort of team you want to play for,” he noted of. “It’s going to make it a challenge to get back in and around it, [but] it’s a great team to play for and that’s what you aspire to do.”