Do Sunderland’s problems lie in the Physio room?

During the recent match against Arsenal at the Stadium of Light, we saw a rushed back Lee Cattermole have to be taken off at half time before later losing another key cog in the form of Danny Rose limp off.

Do Sunderland’s problems lie in the Physio room?

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March 4th, 2013

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Two vital players who have missed too much of this season through injury. This compounded a frustrating loss and left some fans wondering why the pair had such stop start seasons.

These two players and their recurrent injuries have led to a vocal section of supporters levelling accusations at O’Neill of following in the footsteps of his predecessor in the Sunderland hot seat, Steve Bruce, as a man who rushes players back when they aren’t even close to ready. When you consider the importance to the side of both Rose and Cattermole – one of which is one of our best players this season, the other our captain – it is obvious why the gaffer would be eager to have them back in the side. Understandable, but it doesn’t make it right.

It’s interesting to note that the same medical team that operated at the club during Bruce’s tenure remain here under O’Neill. It is typical for a manager to bring his own backroom staff to a club when he takes over and this was no different on Wearside when the Northern Irishman came to the club, but given the injury problems at the club in recent seasons, it was perhaps surprising that there wasn’t any shake up whatsoever in the medical staff.

A closer look at the situation reveals that the medical staff have formed something of a backbone to the club throughout the last decade. The Rehab Physio has been here since 2002, while the Head of Medical Department has been around since 2005. It’d be interesting to know what their role is in advising the manager on whether a player is ready to return or not, and how much their opinions are valued as it seems they have a great influence on the manager regardless of who that might be.

As well as the physios, there are also the players themselves to consider. They cannot be totally absolved of blame either. Cattermole and Rose are both enthusiastic players, particularly Cattermole, who clearly loves being on a football pitch. If the medical staff were to give a tentative green light and O’Neill asked the players how they were feeling, I’ve little doubt they’d be prepared to go out there and play even if they weren’t being totally honest with themselves about their fitness. Similar could be said of David Meyler and Fraizer Campbell, both of whom have suffered long-term injuries and injured themselves in coming back far, far too quickly.

Injuries happen in football and sometimes players are just unlucky that they suffer them more than others. When it happens repeatedly and under different managers, then it is natural to question the medical staff as well as the players themselves.

The long term physical health of players should come before any short term gain, which means staff – including the manager – need to think twice before giving the go ahead for players to return to the side.

There’s been several occasions where we have only managed to put out six substitutes in 2013 already, and at some point soon, someone  is going to have to explain how and why we are in this situation.


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