Sheffield Wednesday defender Daniel Pudil has revealed how a mini-break from football has helped cure a niggling injury.
The 31-year-old had a hectic summer, playing for the Czech Republic at Euro 2016 before a deal was thrashed out to move north from Watford to Hillsborough.
It meant the left-back had little time off over the close season, and he soon picked up a thigh injury which blighted his early-season form.
Owls head coach Carlos Carvalhal hauled Pudil off after an hour of the 2-1 home defeat to Brighton on October 1.
With the international break, Pudil was ordered to take a complete rest from football, and spent several days in Spain with his young family.
He returned for last Sunday’s derby win at Huddersfield Town, and followed that up with another 90 minutes in Wednesday night’s 1-1 draw at Cardiff City.
Pudil has come through the back-to-back away games with flying colours, even netting his first goal of the campaign at Cardiff to earn the Owls a point.
He is set to play his third game in seven days today, and is just relieved to put his injury troubles behind him.
“It was very frustrating,” admitted Pudil. “I felt like I could do things, but my body wouldn’t let me go. I still felt some pain, it’s very hard to describe, it was a strange feeling.
“From the summer, I didn’t have a proper break or pre-season. Maybe this is why this happened, I only had a few weeks holiday so couldn’t take proper rest.
“I came back to Sheffield, and played games straightaway and the injury came. The body just needed to take a rest, that’s why we decided after the Brighton game – when I came off after 60 minutes – to give it a long rest, eight or nine days, and not do anything.
“Everyone can now see I am in a good way, because I have played very well in the last two games.
“The injuries are definitely behind me, and I can concentrate on the football.
“In our sessions, in my mind, I couldn’t pass the ball, shoot, because I still felt pain.”
Pudil also has one eye on an international call-up, but admits missing out with the Czech Republic means he can devote more time to his family.
“I would be like to be back playing internationals, it’s an honour for me to be in the squad,” he said
“I am fit right now, have played the last two games, and feel all right. We have a few more games until the next international break, so it will up to the (international) manager whether he calls me or not.
“If I am in the squad I will be happy, if not, I can spend more time with my family.
“During the last international break, we were with the family in Spain for four days, which was great. Of course, I want to be called up, but if not I won’t be upset, that’s football.”
Wednesday face QPR today, sitting sixth in the Championship – their highest league placing this season.
It is where the Owls finished last season to clinch a play-off spot, which took them to Wembley and a 1-0 loss to Hull City which denied them Premier League football.
Pudil admits the Owls players are starting to handle the extra pressure put on them this season to repeat last year’s success. Results on the pitch certainly reflect that, for having won just once in the first five Championship games, the Owls have chalked up five wins from their last eight outings.
“It was a great week for us, especially after the Brighton game, our last home game,” said Pudil. “We needed the points. Against Cardiff, maybe we deserved more than just a point.
“But we can be happy with four points, it lays a platform for us. The focus is now on the home game with QPR, another win, and to stay in the top six and push as high as possible.
“The challenge from the beginning of this season – especially after last time – was that people expect a little bit more.
“They push us, and we know we are under a little bit of pressure, trying to prove ourselves again.
“But we are in a good way now, in the top six, with more points than last season and playing better football than then.
“If we can win (against QPR) we can start to focus on the top two. We were under a little bit of pressure at the start of the season, but now things have settled down.
“The main pressure is on Newcastle, Aston Villa and Norwich. We are close to them.
“But I don’t want to say we are going to win the league, or finish second or third. Let’s just focus on the next game. The season is still early.”
Owls head coach Carvalhal believes Wednesday are playing better football than last season, but insists this week is gruelling with three Championship games in seven days.
After a tough Yorkshire derby at Huddersfield on Sunday, Wednesday flew to Wales for the midweek trip to Cardiff to cut down on travelling, before another swift turnaround to host Rangers to S6 today.
“It is a very hard week,” said Carvalhal. “It will probably be the hardest week in the season. We have played three games in a short time and against opponents who have made things difficult for us. We have had three hard games.
“It is why I appealed to our fans after the Cardiff game to understand the situation and push our players to the maximum.
“This is the final game of an important week and we need extra energy and I hope that our fans understand that also.
“We are playing very well and competitive. I’m sure that we weren’t playing last season with the quality that we are now. I know that absolutely.
“We are in a good position but we want to do better and better of course.”