Last night Newcastle fans, and the greater footballing world, enjoyed a truly fine moment as Jonas Gutierrez took to the pitch once again in the black and white shirt.
The Argentine was declared clear of testicular cancer at the back end of last year after a long battle and months of chemotherapy, and a 30 minute stint against Manchester United was his first competitive match action for the North East club for 17 months – he did play briefly for Norwich on loan.
Naturally, Gutierrez received a rapturous welcome from the St James’ Park crowd, and captain Fabricio Coloccini’s decision to hand him the armband was a touching gesture. The 31-year-old is not the only player to have endured a long lay-off though, with numerous players down the years having spent large chunks of time on the sidelines with injuries… and here are FIVE of the finest comebacks…
Despite the Larsson incident having occurred back in the last millennium, any football fan who saw the event will still be able to picture the stricken Swede. The silky striker was involved in a tussle with Lyon’s Serge Blanc in UEFA Cup action, and it’s fair to say the Hoops ace came off worse. Images of the incident were graphic to say the least, with Larsson breaking both his tibia and fibula.
Recovery – Thankfully Larsson made a full recovery and went on to become Celtic’s all-time record goalscorer with a tally of 242. Amazingly, he returned before the end of the same season!
Alex Ferguson himself described the injury as one of the worst he’d ever seen, and with the Scot having been in the game a while, those words carry clout. Smith dived in to block a thunderous shot from Liverpool’s John Arne Riise, and the power of the ball allied to the awkward fall saw the once Leeds prodigy both break his left leg and dislocate his ankle.
Recovery – Smith missed seven months of action, and although he returned, his career never truly got going again.
The first of two severe leg breaks Cisse suffered came back in 2004, courtesy of an overzealous challenge from Blackburn’s Jay McEveley. The Frenchman’s lower leg appeared to buckle as both his tibia and fibula snapped due, in part, to his studs catching in the turf.
Recovery – Despite the horrible scenes, only a seven month lay-off awaited Cisse.
One of the Premier League’s worst leg breaks came in 2008 as Birmingham’s Martin Taylor lunged in recklessly on Eduardo. The Brazilian-born Croatia international was left with a broken left fibula and a dislocated ankle, and prompted Arsene Wenger to call for the offender to be banned for life.
Recovery – Eduardo spent almost a year out of action and upon his return suffered a hamstring injury!
While the majority of horror injuries in football tend to revolve around the legs, goalkeepers are at risk of a number of other issues. And Cech’s severe head injury in 2006 shows how dangerous it can be to wear the gloves. The stopper came out to claim a loose ball only to be caught on the skull by Reading’s Stephen Hunt’s knee. Cech almost died as a result of the blow.
Recovery – To this day Cech wears a protective skull guard, but he amazingly spent just three months out.