If there was a buzz of expectation before the meeting by the end it had become a roar of excitement. Much as we look forwards to meeting players, past and present, and listening to their story, today it was different. We had Rob Price, City’s Head of Medical Services. It was a complete eye-opener to what goes on behind the scenes in preparing players for the match day experience. We all learned things we’d never even thought about and realised how vital the role is of those behind the scenes at the Cottingham Training Ground.
Before joining the Tigers in 2012, Rob had developed his skills at Bradford University before joining the Football Association as their first full-time physiotherapist based at the then National Centre in Lilleshall. Here he worked with the England senior squad as well as all the development squads. In 2005 Rafa Benitez persuaded him to join him at Liverpool where he would work for 7 years. The arrival of Brendan Rodgers saw him bring his own back-up team and Rob was out of a job – but not for long. He was immediately picked up by the 2012 Olympic Games as Head Physio’ before Steve Bruce then invited him to Hull. With the Tigers he admits he inherited a situation that was “miles behind” the other clubs and he set about transforming it to a set up to be proud of.
Rob shared some of his experiences, working with Stevie Gerrard when he had a potential career ending injury, and here with Robert Snodgrass and what was described as one of the worst knee injuries anyone had ever seen. Testimony to the efficiency of Rob’s team in bringing him back to full match fitness and who can forget how Snodders, on scoring his first goal after his return, ran to the physio’ team on the bench and flung his arms around them!
Rob talked about the GPS system used to track players, every twist, turn, sprint etc is recorded and they can identify all kinds of information – like a player who is working harder on his left than his right side etc which could identify a problem.
He talked about Ryan Mason’s concussion at Chelsea and how seriously these situations are now taken. The pre-season cognitive tests are always the base they can use to see if, after an incident, a player is not responding in the same way. With reference to Gary Cahill is was sure that the Chelsea team had been satisfied that he had no signs of continuing problems allowing him to continue – and score against us too! Meanwhile Ryan is now home and making really good progress and was full of thanks for the massive support from the fans following his injury.
He also enlightened us about the mad final hours of the transfer windows when we are repeatedly informed that a potential new signing is undergoing his medical. He admitted that it is impossible to undergo a full evaluation in the time available and that they have to give the club a balanced Risk/Reward ratio – balancing the problems with the possibilities and the potential investment risk.
When players go out on loan the club will always keep in regular contact, at least weekly. Any injury will often see the player recalled so that he can be checked & treated by our own team.
It was an extremely enlightening interview and yet there was more! Sat alongside him was young recruit Will Keane who joined us from Manchester United at the end of the summer transfer window. Will, sadly, picked up a serious knee injury and missed most of his first season, seeing rather more of Rob Price than he would have wanted. We were told that he was in his 15th Week post-surgery and was hoping soon to move outside for the next stage of his recovery. Unfortunately it is not his first set back, having injured the same ligaments previously and missing the whole of the 2012/13 season. This injury followed a period with the young England team, playing 5 games in 12 days. Will had joined the Manchester United Academy along with his twin brother Michael (now at Burnley) and played alongside the like of Paul Pogba & Jessie Lingard. At the age of just 14 he was playing for their Under 18’s, a sign of his early potential. His move to Hull was the right time to progress his career and the presence of Mike Phelan helped to swing the decision too, having known him from his coaching days at Old Trafford.
When asked from the floor Rob & Will were happy to speak positively about the new coaching regime, although it has meant a doubling of the time they now spend at the training ground. For Rob there is always the concern of additional injuries coming from that extra demand. Meanwhile the new players had largely arrived without match fitness and that had presented challenges to the fitness team to help them hit the ground running. They agreed that the new Head Coach had an incredible attention to detail and all players are expected to know exactly what is expected of them .. and their colleagues too!
When asked we were informed that Max Sheaf, the young player badly injured in the game against the SportPesa All Stars, was now home from hospital. He has a fracture to his skull and this will mean at least 8/10 weeks recovery. Brian Lenihan, who made his 1st team debut last season, was injured in the Under 21’s Cup Final against West Ham United. He is now back and training, having worked really hard on his recovery. Because of the injury the club did not register him with a squad number so he will not be playing for the Tigers this season.
Well that will have to do as a report back from what was truly a fascinating and enlightening afternoon.