Clark exclusive

Friday 19 April 2002

After playing such a vital role in Fulham's First Division Championship campaign Lee Clark was looking forward to his return to top-flight football. But since the start of the season, it appears that Clarky's had nothing but bad luck.

Fulham's fitness regime, headed by Roger Propos, has been highly successful in keeping injuries to a minimum and drastically speeding up recovery times.

The days of a player being out for an extended period with a muscle strain or pull, now seems to be consigned to the past.

Clearly that will be of little comfort to Clark, who along with Chris Coleman, has been the only notable long-term absentee for Fulham this season.

"It's been a disaster from the word go," said Clark, "I did all of the pre-season work with the rest of the players then I ended up missing the first week of the season and the opening game at Old Trafford.

"I came back after missing the first home game against my old club Sunderland and the game against Derby. Once you've missed the start of the season it's always difficult. The injury on Boxing Day capped it all off and it's never been the same."

There has been much conjecture and speculation surrounding Clark's injury this season. After all, how could what initially looked like being a simple calf strain put one player out for the large part of a campaign? Clark gave his version of events exclusively to Fulham Today.

"Early in the season I had an Achilles problem which was hanging around for most of the period up until Christmas. In the match against Charlton on Boxing Day I felt a pull in my Achilles area then about 30 seconds later I felt a pull in my calf, so it was a double injury.

"It just didn't feel right after coming on against Liverpool and the calf muscle went again.

"It wasn't two separate injuries. There was talk that I'd done my Achilles against Charlton then pulled my calf against Liverpool. That was total rubbish.

"The situation is that I sustained both injuries against Charlton and it's now been proved that I came back too early against Liverpool."

Perhaps some of the most frustrating injuries that footballers can suffer are muscular. Whilst many such injuries can be treated with conventional methods, it became clear that Clark wasn't making that final stage of recovery quick enough. How did that affect his rehabilitation?

"We tried a few different things. I spent a week on crutches and went to see specialists in France and England. At one stage I ended up having 30 injections over a three-week period in my calf and Achilles area.

"We've left no stone unturned in getting everything 100% right. It has improved so hopefully that can continue. I'm aiming to get back by the end of June." Clark revealed.

With the World Cup coming up, footballers not taking part would usually be enjoying their summer in a far-flung resort or kicking back at home. Not so for Clark, who faces more rehabilitation in the coming weeks.

"There's a lot of hard work ahead to get ready for the new season. Most of my close season will be occupied with rehabilitation work. Hopefully I'll be able to get a couple of weeks away with the family. Even though I've been injured I've still been coming in every day. I haven't been lying about doing nothing.

"Hopefully I'll get things right for the start of pre-season with the rest of the players."

Undoubtedly all Fulham fans will wish Clarky the quickest of recoveries and with Propos and co. watching over him, that's sure to be the case.