It’s a sight for sore eyes for many a Newcastle Jets fan: Wes Hoolahan, back on his feet and working his way towards a return to the pitch.
After sustaining that serious ankle ligament and cartilage injury all the way back in September’s FFA Cup Quarter Final clash with Adelaide United, the former Irish international has been confined to the sideline.
The near four-month absence – his longest ever in a 19-year professional career – meant that Jets fans are yet to see the best of what Hoolahan is able to produce on a football field.
But there have been positive signs in recent weeks, with Wes making a number of visits to the team at Grandstand Physio in Broadmeadow to start using an anti-gravity treadmill to aid his recovery.
“It’s a treadmill that you run on [a percentage of] your body weight where you work your way up to unassisted running, and hopefully I’m on the pitch next week,” Hoolahan said, speaking to NBN News in his first interview since suffering the injury.
“If all goes well today, then I’ll be running on Monday. It’s been great. Everyday, it’s getting stronger and I’m enjoying getting on the alter-g (treadmill].
“No pain whatsoever. Touch wood, it’s all going well. I’m working quite closely with (physiotherapists) Nathan (Renwick] and Owen (James) at the Jets and hopefully, they can get me back on the pitch soon.”
A Norwich City club legend, a veteran of more than 300 games across the EFL Championship and English Premier League, the break has been strange for Hoolahan.
He played just the two competitive matches for Newcastle after signing with the Club in August: the 5-1 rout of Edgeworth in the FFA Cup Round of 16 where he scored his first goal for the Jets, followed by the FFA Cup Quarter Final against Adelaide United where he sustained the injury.
Speaking about his absence, the 37-year-old described it as ‘mentally tough’ but said his family were able to find some positives in the injury.
“It’s been nice being able to spend time with my family. I’ve been at the beach a lot and I’ve seen a lot of Australia since I’ve been here, so that’s one lucky thing to have,” Hoolahan said.
“Well, to be fair, [the family] were buzzing because it meant I had a lot of time to spend at home with them. Obviously, for myself it’s disappointing because I wanted to come out here and play some football, but that hasn’t happened yet.
“I still feel quite sharp, and the body feels good. It’s been a bit of a setback, but I’ve worked really hard in the last couple of months to get ready and I’m looking to playing with the boys and getting to experience the Hyundai A-League.”
Given the nature of the injury, Jets medical staff are taking every precaution in ensuring Hoolahan is 100% ready to return to action.
With land-based running to begin in the coming days, the estimated timeframe for Hoolahan’s return is somewhere between 6-8 weeks.