How Middlesbrough's Dael Fry used injury setback to his advantage after first-team return at Bristol City
For many young footballers it would be difficult to look at the positives during a four-month injury layoff which coincided with an international tournament and the best spell of their fledgling career.
That hasn’t been the case for Middlesbrough defender Dael Fry, though, who has used his time wisely after tearing his hamstring back in April and now believes he’s better prepared than ever before.
The centre-back, who turned 22 last week, made his long-anticipated Boro return in Saturday’s 2-2 draw at Bristol City, after being eased back by new head coach Jonathan Woodgate.
It followed a summer of patience and hard work for Fry, who made sure he maximised the variables he could control.
“I could normally go into training sessions without warming up but when you get a bit older you need to mature,” said Fry. “I think I've matured quite a lot.
“I've sorted my diet out and things, coming in a lot earlier, getting my stuff done. I feel a lot stronger and more powerful and I'm looking forward to the rest of the season now.”
Fry’s injury meant he missed this summer’s European Under-21 Championships, which would have been his last chance to play for England at that age group.
“I think the first week was the hardest for me because I knew I was going to miss the Euros,” added Fry. “But I think it's built me as a person, it's helped me mature and I've taken a lot of positives from it.
“For me, I know I was injured for a long time but it couldn't have happened at a better time.”
As a former centre-back himself, Woodgate is a big admirer of Fry, who was even handed the captain’s armband at Ashton Gate.
The Boro boss has also dealt with his fair share of injuries and knows what it takes to bounce back.
Fry added: “To be fair I haven't rushed things. The medical staff and everyone at Boro have been fantastic.
“I was sat on my sofa watching Luton away and at 3-3 I was dying to get on the pitch. I was gutted. To finally get back on the pitch felt so good.”