Barnsley FC goalkeeper Ben Killip on knowing how injured rival Liam Roberts feels better than most
Like Roberts, Killip was enjoying a fine season for a promotion-chasing side - at Hartlepool United during 2020-21 - only for an untimely injury to stop him in his stride.
In Killip’s case, it was a tear to the medial ligament in his elbow and a fracture of his radius which ruled him out in the home straight of that campaign.
Fortunately, Roberts’ problem, a finger injury sustained last month which required surgery, will hopefully see him back in good time for the pivotal period in the Reds’ campaign.
But with Roberts having been in such excellent form for the Reds, Killip - despite being the beneficiary on this occasion - can vouch for how he feels from his earlier experiences.
Killip had played a key role in Pool’s promotion charge in the National League and had kept more clean sheets than any other keeper in the division prior to suffering an injury in April 2021.
He did make it back on the bench for the north-east outfit’s play-off semi-final with Stockport and the final at Wembley at least, which saw his fellow custodian Brad James grab the glory after Pools’ beat Torquay in a penalty shoot-out to return to the Football League.
Killip, who has started the Reds’ last six matches, said: “I broke my arm and four ligaments in my elbow and missed the back end of that (2020-21) season.
"I knew at the end of the season I wasn’t going to play. Similar to Robbo now, he’s come out of the team through an injury which is very unfortunate. But it’s part and parcel of football.
"To be successful, you need a team full of players. Whether happens now, I’ve got to do the best I can.
"I managed to get back on the bench in the semi-final. I went on holiday for rehab and then landed on the day before the quarters in the play-offs.
"I went to that as a fan. I saw the specialist on the Monday and then I got the all-clear to train.
"Luckily, the physio wasn’t too busy about rehab, he just let me go straight back into it. I did two days of training after 12 weeks off and then I was on the bench for the semis.
"We won and got a clean sheet. The celebrations were good regardless as you are part of it.”
On his empathy with Roberts, on a season-long loan from Middlesbrough, Killip - who turns 29 later this month - continued: "I was gutted for him as he was doing so well. With Robbo, it's the highest he has played at sustainably.
"I have been in that position before where you get injured and are then out of the team. You are doing well and it's really difficult, so I have tried to be supportive for him. It's tough for him."
For Killip, being part of things at Barnsley contrasts markedly with his difficult 2022-23 campaign at Victoria Park.
After struggling early on, the narrative of Pools’ season was set and they couldn’t pull away from trouble. It was a psychologically bruising year and the mood at Oakwell is infinitely more preferable.
Killip, who kept a clean sheet in front of the cameras in Tuesday night’s comfortable first-round replay win at Horsham, added: “It’s nice to be fighting for promotion.
"I did a couple of seasons ago at Hartlepool, but in the last couple of seasons, we were quite solid in League Two in the first and we were in the relegation zone for the whole of last season.
"It’s a completely different pressure - playing to stay in the Football League and getting promoted to the Championship. It is something I have enjoyed and a healthier pressure.
"When you are fighting to stay in the division, it’s difficult and a hard place to be. The atmosphere around the group is not amazing and you are losing most weeks.
"Here, there’s a really good atmosphere around it. Even with the lads who aren’t in the team - and I was not in the team - it’s a fun place to come into work at. You are going into a team which is winning one in the most part."
Brought in on a one-year deal with a further 12 months in the club's favour, Killip is determined to make the most of his opportunity at the highest level he has played at so far in his career to date - and be part of something special come season's end.
Killip, whose goalkeeping coach at Hartlepool was one-time Reds keeper Ross Turnbull, continued: “It’s effectively a two-year contract unless something goes wrong, really.
"It gives the club a break clause. For me, it’s the highest level of football I have played at and best club I have played for, so I didn’t mind if it was a six-month, one or two-year deal.
"It’s just an opportunity to come here, prove myself and hopefully get promoted."