Huddersfield Town’s Tommy Elphick uses time out to get ahead of the game

TOMMY ELPHICK is at an age in a footballer’s life where it pays to make provisions and plan ahead.

OUT: Huddersfield Town's Tommy Elphick leaves the pitch with an injury against Preston at Deepdale on November 9 which brought an end to his season. Picture: Richard Sellers/PA

The Huddersfield Town defender did not need Gary Neville’s recent message about the importance of players looking at career back-ups to reinforce that. Elphick has already been ahead of the game.

Feeling sorry for himself after his season-ending injury sustained back on November 9 when he damaged knee ligaments in Town’s 3-1 Championship loss at Preston was not an option.

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For a player who turned 32 last September, it was an untimely blow. But the centre-back was determined to make the best of a bad situation.

FINE EXAMPLE: Mark Hudson, himself a former defender, has been part of the team that have helped Michael Elphick keep his spirits up. Picture: Martin Rickett/PA

Alongside starting his rehabilitation work, Elphick – who has completed his UEFA B Licence in coaching – has broadened his skills base and kept busy by being part of Town’s analysis team in studying opponents.

It is something that the Brighton-born player enjoyed and took a lot from and is thankful that Terriers chief Danny Cowley afforded him the opportunity as he makes plans for a second career in football further down the line when he hangs up his boots.

Elphick told The Yorkshire Post: “I loved it. I was really lucky with Danny, Nicky (Cowley) and the coaching staff; Huddy (Mark Hudson) and Clem (Paul Clements).

“They have all progressed as young coaches who are looking to improve and it is definitely an eye-opener to see how hard they work and the detail and preparation that goes into not only games, but every day.

Huddersfield Town manager Danny Cowley with brother and assistant manager Nicky, right, have been supportive of Michael Elphick during his recovery. Picture: Martin Rickett/PA

“It’s been fascinating. I have been involved in day-to-day analysis and had a little bit of an input when teams have come through and tried to be around it as much as possible.

“There’s nothing like playing and getting back into that, but it has certainly given me an insight into the other side of it and how hard everyone is working for the football club.

“I went to watch Blackburn and Wigan – we played them both after that – and just gave my input and views on what I saw and on certain individuals as well.

“The lads came down from the Premier League last year, so they might not have played against some of the players who we have come up against this season and I have had that look at them.

“I have just tried to be around it as much as possible and be a good character.”

Few footballers have been afforded any good news amid the coronavirus pandemic which has shut down the game for the past six weeks, but Elphick is one of the exceptions.

The outcome was rather more grim when he suffered his serious injury at Deepdale in November, with the defender contemplating being out of action for a year and the opening third of the 2020-21 season.

Now, Elphick is setting his sights on being available for the start of the next campaign, potentially.

He continued: “I am really lucky to be working with the physio I am working with and the medical team at Huddersfield have been absolutely brilliant with me from day one.

“Steve Humphries (senior physio), who is looking after me, has been in contact every day and I am really lucky with the facilities I have at home where I have a bit of a gym and plenty of equipment to be using.

“Then, hopefully, through all this bad stuff that is going on, I could be gaining a little bit of time, as I am actually not missing the action that a lot of other lads are and the day-to-day stuff.

“Psychologically, it has made it a little bit easier to deal with the injury in this period, but obviously, there’s some scary things going on in the world that we want to steer clear of.

“But, in terms of the injury, I am doing really well and progressing nicely.

“Originally, when I had the operation, the top surgeon was erring on the side of caution and he roughly set out nine to 12 months and looked towards 12 with anything before being a bonus.

“But since then, we have met him a couple of times and he’s really happy with it and he has given us the green light to aim for the nine months, which makes it around August time.

“Out of all of this, I am pretty sure we will get the season finished and, hopefully, from a personal point of view, they will delay the start of next season for something like four weeks – and then I don’t see why I won’t be ready for the start of next season.

“I am getting to that stage in my rehab where it is starting to get a bit more fun and I am moving around a lot more freely.

“The hard part is out of the way and this part is the fun stuff and what you can get your teeth stuck into in terms of improving not just your injury but yourself physically as well.”

Alongside his rehabilitation work with the club’s medical staff, Elphick remains grateful for the moral support of the Cowley brothers, who have kept him in the loop during his injury absence. For many players sidelined with a long-term injury, a sense of isolation is not uncommon with a feeling of marginalisation from the day-to-day of club life.

Fortunately, Elphick is not among that bracket.

“They (Cowley brothers) are ideal in terms of their positivity which is infectious,” added Elphick.

“I have been really lucky to have quite a few good chats with the manager in his time.

“Once we start, we are on the phone for ages, talking about all sorts of business models of football clubs, tactics and personalities.

“It’s been a really good insight for me.

“There’s plenty of old-school managers back in the day who would just cast you to one side, but we are really lucky and blessed to have the two in charge that we have and they have been nothing but superb with me.”

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