Isaac Vassell speaks about his comeback from long-term injury

Isaac Vassell.
Isaac Vassell in training at Wast Hills this week

I have always been about my pace and what not so hopefully I can get back on the pitch very soon and help the team with what I can do.

Isaac Vassell.

Striker Isaac Vassell made his return to action in the Under-23s' 3-0 victory over Barnsley Under-23s at the Trillion Trophy Training Centre, Wast Hills.

He scored the opening two goals and suffered no reaction to the knee ligament injury that has kept him out since October, 2017.

Now Vassell is gearing up to put himself forward for inclusion in Garry Monk’s squad once more, bringing to a close a frustrating chapter in his career.

It was, remember, only his third league start for Blues when a tackle in the home derby against Aston Villa meant he required surgery on his anterior cruciate.

Here, Vassell chats with to talk about what he has been through and what’s ahead. You have taken a significant step in your comeback – returning for the Under-23s and scoring twice, in a 3-0 win. What were your emotions going into the game, and afterwards?

Isaac Vassell: “Going into it, it was preparing for a normal game. Trying to get my mind back on how to prepare, do everything right. In the game, I just wanted to enjoy it. Afterwards I guess I was happy with the performance and the result. I was happy that my knee didn’t react and it was all good.” Could you treat it like a normal game, though, after all it was your first outing in approaching 15 months out?

IV: “Any game I try to treat it like that, no matter what. You have to, otherwise you won’t take things seriously.” You scored after seven minutes, from the penalty spot, after being fouled when bursting through. Not lost the pace, then?

IV: “Yes, the pace is still there! I went through, got brought down and stepped up and took the pen. It was a nice feeling when the ball went in. Scoring any kind of goal it’s a great feeling, to get one after that long was special.” How frustrating has it been, this whole period for you? Sum up what you have been through?

IV: “It has been very frustrating, yes. It has been quite hard sometimes, but the lads have been brilliant to me, they have helped me through it. I have just tried to think about the next step, whether it was running, sprinting, kicking the ball – things like that. Just taking it week by week, really, and keep going from there.” Have you had dark days, sitting there thinking about how long it’s taking?

IV: “Definitely, yes. If you can see the end goal, you realise you can’t waste time having bad days though. You have to keep moving, get on with it and do everything right to get back to the stage where you’re going to play again.” Do you ever think back to the incident itself in that Villa game that caused the injury?

IV: “No. Not really. You have to look ahead.” You had the issue with your hip and thigh that set you back several weeks in late August. In the grand scheme of things, I guess you had to see that as a bump in the road?

IV: “There are always secondary injuries after big ones. If I had got through everything without a secondary injury it would have been good. But you have to expect these things when you haven’t moved your body for a long time and you try to compete at a high level.” What is the next step now? Have you been training fully with the main group for a number of days now?

IV: “I have been with the First Team for a few weeks now, getting back into the swing of things. I have had one proper (Under-23s) game and a few minutes in an in-house game (a mix of Under-18s and Under-23s at the end of December). That’s been about it, but I am feeling good.” I don’t know if you are aware, but Lukas Jutkiewicz said some nice things after the West Ham United game, that the lads came off the pitch to hear the news you had scored on your comeback and it gave them a pick-me-up?

IV: “I saw that, it was nice to know. It shows what the team is like this season. The team spirit is there and for Lukas and the lads to say that it made me feel really good, yes.” Will you be glad to see the back of your close friend David Davis – in a nice way, of course – now you won’t be rehabbing together?

IV: “I’m just delighted to be back out there on the grass. Digga is going through his own things as well and I can sympathise with him as I’ve been there. I am sure he will be back out in no time. He’s making good progress. It’s one of them: he won’t want me in there (the treatment room) either, he will want me out there on the pitch doing well.” What have you made of the season so far?

IV: “The lads have been excellent. The mentality has changed. Everyone is so drilled. We are playing a lot better. Everyone knows their roles and what they need to do in order for us to get success. There have been no bad eggs this season. Everyone has got their head down and working really hard. The proof has been in the pudding. We’ve all seen what it’s been like this season to last season and the years before. Credit to the lads and the management.” You must been looking at the partnership of Lukas Jutkiewicz and Che Adams, the team playing two up front, and thinking ‘I wish I could be out there’?

IV: “Those two have been on fire. Especially with our shape and the way we set up, it suits the likes of me and Che and obviously Jukey helps out with headers and flick-ons. It’s like a striker’s dream, really, to play alongside someone like him. It has been nice to watch this year as it’s what you want to aspire to do yourself, really.” Are you hopeful you can bring something different, something extra, to the team when the time comes?

IV: “Definitely. I have always been about my pace and what not so hopefully I can get back on the pitch very soon and help the team with what I can do.” And will it feel like a fresh start for you, after so long on the sidelines? It has been said that having you back will be like a new signing?

IV: “Yes. It has been a long time, like you say. It will be like a new start, definitely.”