Gabbidon vows to return stronger after injury hell
Danny Gabbidon has returned to pre-season training at West Ham this week ready to resume his career after 18 months of injury misery
By JONATHAN CLEGG
Danny Gabbidon has returned to pre-season training at West Ham this week ready to resume his career after 18 months of injury misery left him fearing for his professional future.
Gabbidon, 29, has not played for the Hammers since a Carling Cup quarter-final clash against Everton in December 2007 after battling a severe abdominal problem.
But the Wales defender is now back in training ahead of the new season following career-saving surgery.
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And Gabbidon is desperate to feature in the club's opening pre-season match at Grays Athletic on Sunday as he bids to draw a line under the injury nightmare that cast doubt on his ability to return to top-flight football.
He said: "I'm fit and ready for pre-season and hopefully I'll make a few appearances for West Ham and Wales.
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I'll start pre-season training [this week], although I'm still behind the other lads in terms of fitness.
"I don't expect to just step back in and it will take time before I can realistically challenge for a place in the match-day squad, but that's what I am working towards.
"Now, at last, I can see a time ahead when I can play Premier League football again for West Ham. I'll be back for the start of the season, fingers crossed."
Gabbidon took his first step on the road back to competitive action on Saturday after the Hammers gave him permission to play in a charity match to open former club Cardiff City's new stadium.
The centre-half lined-up for Lennie Lawrence's all-stars in a 3-1 friendly win and expressed his delight after coming through more than an hour at the City Stadium.
"I have been back in training since the end of last season and I asked West Ham if I could play in the Legends game," he said.
"They gave me the go-ahead and it was a great feeling to be back playing. My boots are a bit tight as they haven't been worn for so long, but it was great to have a run out with some old mates before pre-season."
Now Gabbidon believes he can emerge from pre-season training as a stronger player after coming through the injury hell that almost forced him to quit the game.
He said: "Obviously you do get days where you are doing the same work all of the time and wondering if you're getting anywhere - and some days you just don't want to do it.
"My wife bore the brunt of my frustrations when I came home from training miserable. She and my family have been there to support and encourage me.
"The players have been great, too and the manager keeps asking me when am I coming back, so hopefully that will be soon.
"It is tough not being able to do the job that you love. But what I've gone through makes you stronger mentally as I've been out for a very long time.
"When you see your team-mates playing you want to be out there so it makes you more determined to get back out there with your mates. The experience has made me love the game more.