Injury lay-off has made Tommy Smith realise how lucky footballers are
Ipswich Town defender Tommy Smith knuckled down on his university degree after realising how a playing career can end in an instant.
The 26-year-old went for what he thought would be a routine injection to ease a back problem last September only to be told he needed surgery and that there was a 10% chance it could force him to hang up his boots for good.
Thankfully the operation went smoothly and, following five months of diligent rehabilitation, he returned to first-team action as a second-half substitute in last Sunday’s 1-1 draw at Norwich City.
“It’s reminded me just how lucky we are to play football for a living,” said the New Zealand international, who has made more than 250 appearances for the Blues since graduating from the youth ranks.
“There are so many people that would love to do what we do and you can’t ever take that for granted.
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“The injury gave me chance to put a lot more time and effort into my degree. I started a distance learning course in Exercise and Sports Science in 2011. It’s something that the PFA subsidise and I’m doing it through Manchester Metropolitan University.
“My dissertation is due at the end of this month, so I’ll be glad when that’s in! I’m doing it on the differences in results between end-of-season testing and pre-season testing and the effects of an off-season training programme.
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“I’ll be happy to have that degree behind me because you never know when your last game will be and you need something for a future career.”
With Town hosting Brentford and Wolves on Saturday and Tuesday respectively, Smith added: “I’ve played three lots of 90 minutes for the Under-23s and had no ill effects from Sunday’s game at all, so hopefully that means I’m back 100% fit now. I feel ready to start.
“It’s been hard watching from the stands, especially when the team has been very up and down and you feel like you could be contributing towards helping the side pick up more points.”
Blues boss Mick McCarthy said: “We’ve missed a lot of big players for us through injury and Tommy is one of them. He’s a great pro and during my time here he has generally been penned in on the team-sheet.
“I’m delighted he thinks he’s ready. When I’m ready to put him in, then I’ll pick him.”