Sheffield Wednesday: ‘The last 18 months have been the worst of my career injury wise’

IT is in hard times when you find out who your real friends are. Dominic Iorfa can vouch for that.

The Sheffield Wednesday defender, a big player on the pitch and a big personality in the dressing room and at the club’s Middlewood Road training base, is touching wood at every available juncture in the devout hope that his injury torment is now finally over.

A tough period in Iorfa’s career began in Wednesday’s South Yorkshire derby with Barnsley at Hillsborough just before the festive season in 2020.

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The former Wolverhampton Wanderers centre-half damaged his Achilles and was ruled out for the rest of the season.

Wednesday's Dominic Iorfa picked up a bad injury against Barnsley in December 2020. Picture: Steve Ellis

Iorfa, by his own admission, was in a ‘dark place’ early on in his rehabilitation, certainly in the first two months when he had to wear a special boot and was on crutches and struggled to leave the house.

It was then that his team-mates came into their own with texts and regular check-ups. Some even offered to do his shopping.

The 26-year-old fought back to full fitness – with one part of his rehab even involving running up and down the stairs of Hillsborough’s famous Kop – only to suffer a second crushing blow when he suffered a hip injury following the home game with Lincoln City last October which necessitated more surgery.

Darren Moore called it a ‘bitter blow’ and he spoke for everyone.

Back in first team action this month, Owls defender Dominic Iorfa. Picture: Steve Ellis

Again, Iorfa’s work colleagues, led by a caring captain in Barry Bannan, stepped up to the plate.

There was elation when Iorfa returned from the substitute’s bench on March 1 to crown a special night for the Owls following a 5-2 League One win over Burton – and a collective crossing of fingers for the popular defender.

Professing his gratitude for the support of team-mates, Iorfa – who became a father during his convalescence from his first serious injury – said: “Definitely. With the injuries I had, the messages from the boys and checking in on me were really good with the ‘get well’ messages.

“Both times with the injuries I have had, Baz (Bannan) was messaging the day before surgery and on the day and checking how things are.

“Those are things which meant a lot to me. People seeing if I needed anything. Him and a few other team-mates were saying: ‘Anything you need, just let me know’.

“That helped massively and helps you get through the hard times – knowing your team-mates are there for you.

“I am hoping that, touch wood, that is me done now injury wise. The last 18 months have been the worst of my career injury wise. I did my Achilles and got over that and then started playing games again and was happy. Then, I had another freak injury again, which was unheard of.

“At least, that is past me now and I can turn it around and make it a good season for me.”

Iorfa’s recent 90 minutes against Accrington was the first time he’d completed a full match since the derby at Huddersfield Town on December 8, 2020. It will have represented an important psychological hurdle to clear.

Another might just arrive on Saturday afternoon, certainly from a team perspective.

Sunderland, occupying the final play-off spot just above seventh-placed Wednesday, are inactive with their scheduled fixture over Rotherham United having been postponed due to international commitments.

Oxford United, in fifth, are also not playing, with the Owls able to draw level on points with the U’s – and above Sunderland – if they beat Cheltenham Town at Hillsborough this weekend.

With both the U’s and Black Cats having played one more match than their rival, it is effectively Wednesday’s game in hand.

It would be a shame to waste it and potentially very costly in a tight top-six race, with Iorfa and co in the business of keeping their promotion dream alive.

After a fraught 2020-21, doing that would exorcise many ghosts and mean so much to everyone.

Including Iorfa, a Southend boy who has made Sheffield his home.

He continued: “I came to this club at a time in my career where I was not playing as many games as I wanted to. They welcomed me in here and since I have been fit, I have played a lot of games and the fans have taken to me well and I am settled in the area.

“It is a club I do enjoy playing for. I just want to enjoy success with the club.

“We have got a really good dressing room and a lot of great characters. The boys, before I came back, had been performing really good and we just need to stay consistent.

“We have now got a big push for the rest of the season and hopefully we can carry on and win as many games as we can and see where it takes us.

“Collectively, it would be perfect to get promoted and cap off the season. For me personally, from the 18 months I have had, it would be amazing and turn things around for me.”