It’s been more than a year on the sidelines for Joe Gomez, who was doing well for Liverpool under Brendan Rodgers until he injured his ACL back in October 2015 and then added an Achilles issue on for good measure.
At only 19-years-old, this long stretch on the sidelines was a huge blow to a player trying to develop and get his career off the ground. But now, finally, he’s getting close to rejoining the squad to train at Melwood again, after clocking some game time with the U-23s.
For the young defender, the time couldn’t pass quick enough. In fact, he bought a calendar just so that he could cross off the days and keep track of his rehabilitation milestones along the way.
“Towards the end, the final two months, I bought a calendar and put it on my wardrobe and I wrote out every day and ticked off every box,” he told the official website.
“With the nature of my Achilles injury, I could write out my distances and I was checking off each week – ‘This week I finished 5k, this week I finished 8k.’
“That was massive for me because I was counting down and looking at the week itself, instead of focusing on a long-term goal. That helped me massively.”
Sounding a bit more world-weary and philosophical than a kid his age should be, Gomez ruminated on the injury and the impact that it had on his career and his mental toughness.
“I’m a different person than I was before the injury, because of the nature of it. That’s bound to happen,” he said.
“I’m a believer that everything happens for a reason. It was a humbling experience – to be thankful for everything that you have. We’re all grateful to be in this position.
“Now I think I’m stronger for it and everything that happened has taught me many lessons off the pitch about life and mental strength. Touch wood, that’s the last big one that I have. I pray that I don’t have to experience anything like that again, because it is tough and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.
“But it did make me a stronger person, mentally and physically. You can take positives from every situation.”
Gomez was one of the few highlights of Rodgers’ last few months with the team, and many people are excited at the prospect of seeing what Klopp can do with the young center-back. With any luck, it won’t be long until we find out.