EXCLUSIVE: Eight weeks of frustration for Carl Baker
Two months? It might as well have been two years for Carl Baker as he nears the end of a frustrating start to 2016.
Ankle ligament damage picked up against Leeds United while many were still trying to see off their New Year’s hangovers was hardly the way the MK Dons Player of the Year winner wanted to start the new calendar.
Weeks of rehab, fitness training, treatments and lonely hours in the gym, Baker was finally running on grass this week, with a view to kicking a ball again.
Hobbling off at Elland Road, recovery seemed a long way off for Baker. He knew immediately that Sam Byram’s late challenge left him in a bad way, but he’d hoped for only a couple of weeks on the sidelines.
Physio Simon Crampton warned Baker may need surgery, and at least three months on the treatment table, rather than with a ball at his feet.
“I was about to shoot and I had my body weight on my left foot and he’s gone through my left leg and I’ve rolled the ankle,” said Baker.
“I knew it was bad straight away, but I thought it was in my knee or shin because that’s where he caught me.
“Si straight said it was my ankle. When I got back to the dressing room, I knew it was my ankle because it started throbbing and swelling up.
“I had to go and see a surgeon initially. That would have left me out for 12 weeks and I couldn’t imagine anything worse, to be honest.
“I was so disappointed and down already, so that was a bit of a lift when they said I didn’t need the surgery.
“It was the first bit of good news, it was a relief. It has been two months now, I couldn’t imagine having to wait another three or four weeks.
“I’m not a good patient - I’m very impatient. I think Si will be glad to see the back of me!
“My missus can’t wait for me to get back playing again, she’s probably taken the brunt of it. I’m a little bit more hot tempered than I normally would be, and I give people stick in traffic on the M1, but that’s just part and parcel of not playing. I’m sure when I’m back, my anger will go a bit!
“I’ve had my up days and my down days - probably more down days to be honest, but that’s the sort of person I am. I hate not playing.
“I get really jealous of the lads being able to go out there and play.
“One or two weeks is bearable, but anything longer than that, you end up tearing your hair out. I’m at that stage now,”
The road to recovery isn’t easy for a footballer though. While two months off work sounds ideal for most, Baker’s workload has doubled, and it’s not the fun side of football he has been enduring - countless hours of lonely work in the gym, lifting weights and keeping up his cardio with the sole goal of a return as motivation.
He said: “In the first few weeks, I still had the protective boot on and I couldn’t do much. But I wasn’t having any time off, I was still in doing upper body stuff, cardio on the hand-bikes. I was even on a spinning bike, but the plastic kept catching and breaking! I was off it for two or three days but then I was back in doing double-sessions. We’ve got a lot of equipment to treat it to speed things up. And then there was balance and strength work in the ankle to build it back up. It has been a long process, and a lot of lonely hours in the gym but you’ve just got to get through it.
“I do enjoy the gym work, but 100 per cent I’d prefer to be on the pitch with the lads. Fortunately for the team, there haven’t been many others in here with me. It is mainly just me and Matty (Upson) in there. People stick their head around the door every now and then to say hello, but doing it five or six days a week is frustrating. You’ve just got to stay positive.”
IN PART TWO: Carl Baker on his afternoon with the Dons fans at Northampton, and his view from the press box.