Doncaster Rovers: McCombe on the long road back

Jamie McCombe
Jamie McCombe

Jamie McCombe would have relished the opportunity to play against former club Huddersfield Town on Saturday.

But in truth, the big centre half would love to have been playing football this weekend whoever the opposition.

Instead, he will be watching on from the stands not knowing when he will next get playing time.

McCombe is currently wearing a back brace which is hoped will heal a long standing stress fracture of his spine, one he carried through his two-year spell with Huddersfield prior to joining Rovers.

When the brace is removed at the end of next month, his real recovery will begin and he hopes his frustration will begin to clear.

“All through my time at Huddersfield I had this problem but we obviously didn’t realise how severe it was,” McCombe told the Star.

“I managed to play through the pain, even last season.

“I’ve played injured and had too successive promotions so I’ve not suffered too badly.

“But it’d be nice to be back to full fitness, not carrying injuries and just having to do the bare minimum to survive game to game.”

MRI scans at Huddersfield failed to show any sign of a fracture, meaning McCombe was spending just brief spells on the sidelines with no chance of the injury healing.

It was not until a CT scan at the end of last season, after 35 games for Rovers, that the true problem was discovered.

He said: “Through my time at Huddersfield it never got identified. It kept being put down to sciatica.

“I was having to just get on with it but the pain wouldn’t go away.

“We were in the thick of it last season so I played until the end.

“After we found the real problem I did nothing over the summer.

“But after three days back in training I felt it again. The fracture was still active so they decided to put the brace on and the consultant is convinced this will do the job.

“It’s frustrating it wasn’t identified earlier, mainly because I haven’t been able to put my best out on the pitch.

“I had the MRI scan and it didn’t show the fracture but if I’d have had a CT scan maybe it would have and it could have been dealt with sooner.

“All of those things are in the past and hopefully we can get it sorted.

“I’ve got plenty of time left in my career and hopefully I can get to where I want to be.”

McCombe’s biggest frustration with the injury has been its effect on his ability on the pitch and his capacity to improve off it.

Huddersfield opened the door for him to leave just after winning promotion to the Championship in 2012.

And now there is a sense he has been robbed of another chance of proving himself capable of stepping up to the second tier where he made 78 appearances for Bristol City.

He said: “People don’t often see things like this from the outside and think you’re 100 per cent fit when you’re out there on a Saturday.

“I’ve struggled through so much.

“After finishing training I’ve not been able to do extras like weight training because it would aggravate my back and put me back for days.

“I was having to do 45 minutes work before training to get myself prepared just to go out and train. And then I couldn’t do anything else to improve myself afterwards.It’s been a day to day struggle.

“There were points at both Huddersfield and here when I couldn’t even sprint. The pain receptors in the body just stop you from doing it.

“The frustrating thing is people can’t see what you’re going through.

“You know yourself what you’re capable of and I know I can do better. You want to be 100 per cent because if you’re not you never know how far you can performance wise.”

Both McCombe and his medical advisors are confident he can return to 100 per cent fitness provided the fracture is given the time to heal.

And time is something Paul Dickov has given McCombe, who insists he is under no pressure for a speedy return and has instead been given the chance to find the full fitness levels he desperately craves.

All the 30-year-old can do now is try to keep patience until his brace is removed.

He said: “There’s not much I can do with the back brace on, only really the exercise bike. I can’t swim, run or lift weights. It’s pretty much total shutdown for me.

“I see the lads running and normally I’d moan about having to do that but I’d give anything to be out there.

“I need the brace on because even when I’m not doing anything football wide, I’m still without realising.

“I’ve got two kids at one and three so obviously I’m picking them up all the time which is putting strain on it.

“The brace is stopping me from bending between my chest and bottom, taking all the load off the back.

“So I’ve not picked the kids up or anything which has been hard.

“But even when I get this off, it’s going to be a long process.

“With the brace on, I’ll not have used my stomach muscles do it’s going to be a good two month of rehab to strengthen my core.

“I’m going to have to work really hard to catch up quickly but getting back is something I’m really looking forward to.

“I’m positive about the future and fully focussed on getting back.

“I’m just thankful we’ve got to the bottom of it and I can get back to being full fitness, then I can kick on and be better.”