‘I took pills, had injections and couldn’t move... I was playing at 50%’ - Norwood opens up on painful first year at Ipswich
- Credit: Archant
Ipswich Town striker James Norwood spoke to ANDY WARREN about his painful first season at Ipswich and how he is recovering during the coronavirus crisis.
It started with a bang, but the 2019/20 season soon turned into a painful one for Ipswich Town striker James Norwood.
The former Tranmere man arrived at Portman Road to some fanfare following a stunning 32-goal season for the Merseyside club last season and, while he’s scored 11 times in just 22 league starts in Blue, he is the first to admit that tally could and should be higher.
The blistering start to his Ipswich career, which saw him net five goals in his first six games, helped him capture the imagination of the club’s fans as his wrestling-themed celebration videos brought global attention from the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) and iconic star Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson.
But things got more and more tough from that point on.
Norwood, 29, has undergone two groin operations this season and is currently recovering from the second, with the striker admitting his desire to push through the pain barrier made it almost impossible to perform at the standard he has become accustomed to.
“The problem was going on since September really and then I tore my groin,” the striker said, speaking from his home during football’s suspension during the coronavirus crisis.
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“I was taking three or four pills a day to be able to train and play and before I had my first operation (in October) I had injections before games. I grew up in a place where ‘if you’re injured, you play’ and I was probably doing myself a disservice with my performances from that time on because I wasn’t able to do anything I wanted to do.
“I was probably playing at about 50 per cent really. It impacted any form of running and I couldn’t really kick a ball with my left foot. Changing direction and jumping was hard – pretty much everything.
“Sometimes the pain killers worked, sometimes they didn’t and it was just a case of trying to get lucky for a game.
“I got through the first 10 games well and was on seven goals from there but after I got the injury I was fighting a losing battle really.” Norwood continued. “I was training once or twice a week and it got to the point where I really couldn’t move.
“I wasn’t personally happy with how I had done. Stats-wise I made 22 starts and scored 11 goals in the league and that’s obviously not too bad, but in terms of performances I should have been on a few more goals really. I know that.
“I wasn’t able to get into the positions I wanted to and wasn’t really able to be the player I was last year, which is obviously a big disappointment after making a big move like I did.
“I’ve been speaking to a friend of mine who had exactly the same operation. He said it took him about eight weeks (post-op) until he was pain-free so by the end of this first period we’ve been given off then I’ll hopefully be pain free and then ready to go.”
It’s been around a week since Norwood saw another human being, as he isolates alone with two of his five dogs during this strangest of times.
He’s keeping busy of course. Fitness work is broken up by speaking to old friends, keeping active on social media and working his way through box sets, Netflix and Disney+.
Isolation has also meant a pause in Norwood’s treatment programme, which he had been undergoing at the club’s training ground even after the majority of the Ipswich squad had been sent home from training, although he has been set a course by the club’s medical department to aid his recovery.
To help him on his journey back to action the striker has, in the words of physio Matt Byard, ‘dismantled the Playford Road gym’ and taken it home with him.
“I’ve got a bench press, 10 sets of dumbbells, a slide board, a pole, exercise bands and a bike,” he said, laughing. “And I also took the speaker with me.
“I took it home in the back of the car over a period of a couple of days. I took what I thought I needed and then when the training ground got closed down I took the rest of it.
“I’m obviously doing rehab at the moment after having groin surgery so that side of things has been set out for me by the club in terms of a recovery timetable, but then above that I’m also keeping fit and ticking over as well.
“We have to send in our workouts to the fitness coach who then tells us if we’re doing enough or too much. The lads at this level know how to keep themselves ticking over and they’re professional enough to stay fit.
“Us injured guys were still going into training for a few days after the rest of the squad were working at home and I saw Chambo (Luke Chambers) out running in the street so I can vouch that he at least is doing his stuff.”
So how are the squad keeping in touch? “We have a Whatsapp group for the squad so videos get posted on there and we all have a laugh,” Norwood said. “Chambo set that group up and then adds people when they join so he’s running things there. Searsy’s quite busy on there too.
“The lads are getting on the Houseparty app so lots of stuff is going on on there and I’ve been getting in touch with former team-mates and players I’ve played against in the past and there’s lot of fun going on there.
“Chambo texted me a couple of days ago to just check how I’m doing and things like that. He knows some lads are by themselves at home during this isolation so in terms of being a captain and keeping morale up he’s fantastic because he checks up on people during tough times like this. It’s needed when you’re on your own.”
As things stand the Ipswich squad are due to return to training on April 14 ahead of their next scheduled game, at home to MK Dons on May 3, but that date is certain to be pushed back in the coming days.
But, when football does resume when the time’s right, Norwood wants the 2019/20 campaign to be played to a conclusion rather than the season being declared null and void.
“We’ve been given a date to come back in (April 14) but that’s subject to change and it looks likely that will probably happen,” he said.
“China went into lockdown in January and are coming out around now so it looks like it’s going to be a three-month break.
“We want to play as many games as we can. I want to play football because you don’t want the season to have an asterisk next to it saying the season didn’t finish.
“We’re still in with a chance – a slim chance – but you never know this break might have done us the world of good. There’s a chance we can squeeze in so we want to finish the season.”