Snodgrass happy to return to scene of comeback

ROBERT SNODGRASS can laugh about it now but his predicament a year ago in Portugal was anything but amusing.

Hull City's pre-season training.

The Scotland international will join the rest of his Hull City team-mates today in flying home from a 10-day training camp in Portugal. It has been a useful exercise, as witnessed by the grimaces that have filled the players’ faces during the morning and early evening sessions that have seen Steve Bruce’s men put through their paces in often stiflingly hot conditions.

There have been grins along the way, too, not least over the oxygen mask that Snodgrass had to wear during last year’s training camp at the same golf complex on the Algarve during his long and often painful recovery from the smashed kneecap that the Scot suffered on his Premier League debut for the Tigers.

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“The lads all reckoned I looked like Bane from Batman!” reveals the 28-year-old with a smile.

Hull City's pre-season training.

Twelve months ago, Snodgrass, thanks to the black mask that covered his face from just above the nose down, may have had a resemblance to Batman’s famed adversary.

But, sitting outside the Penina Hotel & Golf Resort in the sunshine this week, The Yorkshire Post can not help but think the huge scar on his left knee lends the Scot more the look of the Six-Million Dollar Man than any enemy of the caped crusader.

The scar, which runs from way above the kneecap to just below and has another smaller incision a couple of inches lower, betrays the serious nature of the injury Snodgrass suffered on the opening day of the 2014-15 season.

It kept the likeable Glaswegian out of football for a little over 15 months, his return not coming until December last year and a colossal 464 days after being stretchered off in agony just 40 minutes into Hull’s 1-0 win at Queens Park Rangers.

Hull City's pre-season training.

City’s trip to Portugal last summer came almost five months before that long-awaited return to action and Snodgrass admits the contrasts with the past 10 days could not be more marked.

“Being back here does bring back memories,” said the former Leeds United wideman while looking out over the perfectly manicured lawns of the Penina resort.

“Sometimes, you try and bury stuff at the back of the mind – almost like erasing it. But now I am back here, just thinking about where I was last year, and that does drive me on because I don’t want to be like that again. Ever.

“I actually came out two weeks before the lads last year as part of my rehab. As a club, that is what we do and I did a lot of work with the physios before the rest of the squad arrived.

“I was running round with that oxygen mask on. The lads were laughing a couple of days ago about that, about me being Bane from Batman and all that. To be fair, I was laughing about it, too.

“But, mentally, it was tough a year ago. At first, it felt good in that I was jumping and passing the ball well. Then, though, when I first joined in (with the team), I didn’t know where to turn or how to move. I had lost all the patterns. It was really weird.

“Eventually, after three or four days, I knew I was making progress. My recovery moved on and I started doing more runs but I went too fast and the injury let me know that. I had to be patient.”

Snodgrass’s patience was rewarded with not just the resumption of his career but, thanks to last May’s play-off triumph, a return to the Premier League. It is a level he spent two years at with Norwich City, scoring an impressive 12 goals in 67 appearances.

“I will be honest and say I didn’t even think about the Premier League after we had won at Wembley,” he added. “As soon as it was over, I was on international duty and my focus was on Scotland.

“After that, I had three weeks of doing nothing. Probably the first time I have done that. The medical staff said I had to switch off completely.

“I hadn’t stopped for two years. Last summer, I was in for rehab all the way through. I had to shut off and give myself a break. Plus, the older you get, you do need to switch off.

“It was only when I got back around the lads that I did start to think about things again – what we have to come, the first couple of league games and so on. Now, I am fully switched on.”

Hull’s return to the elite will start in daunting fashion, particularly at the re-named KCOM Stadium when the opening day visit of champions Leicester City will be followed by Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea.

Points are likely to be at a premium in that opening quartet of home fixtures but Snodgrass is looking forward to not only the challenge but also returning to the top flight after what, thanks to that awful injury, is a two-year absence.

“When you get there, you realise you are rubbing shoulders with the best of them,” he added.

“You test yourself every single week, both as an individual and as a team. We are all looking forward to the challenge of being back at elite level.”