DAVID MEYLER has known dark times in his career. Such as the day when the midfield player, then of Sunderland, was told that not only was his career in doubt but that he might never walk properly again.
So, when the Hull City man walks out at Wembley ahead of Saturday’s FA Cup final, he will offer a small prayer of thanks that a truly horrific 18-month injury nightmare is now firmly behind him.
“It was an awful time,” said the Republic of Ireland international of the two ruptured cruciate ligament injuries that blighted his start to life in English football.
“I made such a mess of my leg the first time that when it happened for a second time, it felt like someone had broken my finger nail. But it was the length of time that I needed out that hurt.
“I owe everything to Steve Bollen (surgeon at the Yorkshire Clinic, near Bradford). He did a fantastic job on both (injuries) for me, so I have to thank him for that.
“I was told I might never walk properly again so, you can put that in context, to play in an FA Cup final would be incredible.”
Steve Bruce was in charge at the Stadium of Light when Meyler suffered his injury woes and the player is in no doubt as to the debt he owes the Geordie.
He said: “The manager gave me a great opportunity at Sunderland and then another one to come and play at Hull. When I spoke to him, he said, ‘Meyler, I want you to come and be a part of this’.
“I said, ‘How do I know you are going to be promoted?’ And he said ‘Do you believe me? Trust me, I will get this team promoted’. And, within one year, he did it. Credit to him for that. It shows what a great manager he is.”
Meyler’s first injury came in 2009, just a dozen games into his Sunderland career. The second followed a little over a year later, just five games into his comeback.
“I would not say it drives me on but I appreciate the small things a lot more,” said the Hull man. “When you spend 18 months out injured, it is never nice.
“When you are training every day, you relish it and enjoy it. I look at a couple of players in our squad who have not been as lucky as me to play so many games this season and tell them that I have been in their situation.
“I know what they are going through, tell them to keep their heads down and keep working hard. I tell them ‘don’t rush and when you are ready you will know and you will be called upon, with the physios here, who are top lads, you will get back’.”
Meyler is likely to be one of the first names on Bruce’s team-sheet for Saturday after a hugely impressive season. He also scored the fifth and final goal that booked Hull’s place in the English game’s showpiece occasion when Sheffield United were beaten at Wembley last month.
A little over a week ago, however, the 24-year-old’s involvement in the Cup final looked in major doubt after a clash with Adnan Januzaj in the final minute of Hull’s 3-1 defeat to Manchester United.
As Meyler won possession near the corner flag, he appeared to stamp on the Belgian. Ryan Giggs, interim manager at Old Trafford, was critical of the Tigers man straight after the game.
Bruce, after having viewed a replay of the incident, also had his worries about a possible punishment from the Football Association.
In the end, referee Craig Pawson revealed he had seen the touchline clash at the time and that led to a reprieve for Meyler.
“The referee realised there was no malice in it,” said the Tigers player of that clash. “Januzaj is a fantastic player and I wish we could have got up to him earlier in the game.
“It could have been taken the wrong way, but it was an accident in the sense that it was clumsy from me. I was tired, it was the 90th minute and Januzaj was too quick for me.
“My leg was in the air, he had kicked the ball away and as I was going to plant my foot to push off I ended up accidentally standing on top of him.
“Of course, there was a worry and some anxiety. Sometimes things can be taken the wrong way or over the line but it is all done and dusted now and I can look forward to the Cup final.”
As for this season, Meyler added: “It has been all right, though it would be nice to win on Saturday. I have played regularly in the Premier League, which is always good. People do ask if I am a Premier League regular now but I don’t think I am until I have 250 games under my belt.
“I am enjoying it which is the most important thing. We have had a fantastic season so far and we have big aspirations for next season. We want to improve and then there is European football, which will be great for us.”