DAVID Meyler will be given the “kid glove” treatment as he bids to comeback from a horrific knee injury, says Sunderland boss Steve Bruce.
The 22-year-old played his first game for eight months last month, getting through 45 minutes before a planned half-time substitution.
He got about the pitch well and tackled solidly in the centre of midfield – but it was just a first step on the road to recovery, his manager pointed out.
The Republic of Ireland international is trying to rebuild his career 16 months after rupturing every ligament in his right knee in May, 2010.
Meyler made an earlier than expected return midway through last season just before Christmas, but his comeback was cut short after only five games when he suffered a fresh cruciate ligament injury to the same knee in Sunderland’s win at Aston Villa in January.
Two such knee injuries could easily have ended Meyler’s career and the the fact that he is back at all is a major tribute to his dedication and tenacity.
And Bruce is at pains to point out that this is just the start of another long road for the midfielder, who is not expected to be considered for a first-team return for months to come.
Bruce said: “We’ve just got to be patient and give David as much time as we can. As much time as he needs. This is a huge time for him and we need to see how he comes through this game first of all.
“I know people will see him back playing and will hope that it won’t be long before he is in the first-team, but this is only the start of what will be a very long process.
“Sometimes after training his knee swells up and we have to make sure we treat him with kid gloves and give him the best possible chance of getting back fit again.”
Meyler picked up the original injury in Sunderland’s final home game of the 2009-10 season against Manchester United, catching his studs in the turf without a United player in sight.
The damage sustained was so serious that Bruce says it was one of the worst knee injuries the medical experts had ever seen.
He said “It was a horrific injury – I can’t overstate just how serious it was. It was arguably the worst knee injury of its type that any player has ever had.
“You couldn’t get any worse, because he severed the lot – medial, cruciate, lateral and cartilage.
“It was horrible and there wasn’t even a tackle involved. His studs got caught in the turf and as his knee moved with his body-weight, his leg didn’t.”