Dave Craven: Castleford Tigers’ Luke Gale will ride to the rescue after David Beckham-esque recovery

Will 
Castleford's talisman Luke Gale be back in time for the play-offs? (
Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe)
Will Castleford's talisman Luke Gale be back in time for the play-offs? ( Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe)
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I REMEMBER when first hearing about a ‘metatarsal’ thinking it was some sort of dinosaur or maybe parlance linked to meteorites.

Before David Beckham broke one of his in 2002, it is safe to say any injury to that bone was largely covered under the broader spectrum of ‘foot’ or ‘toe’.

England's soccer team captain David Beckham celebrates after scoring from the penalty spot during their 2002 World Cup, Group F match against Argenina after povercoming his metatarsal injury (AP Photo/Kyodo News)

England's soccer team captain David Beckham celebrates after scoring from the penalty spot during their 2002 World Cup, Group F match against Argenina after povercoming his metatarsal injury (AP Photo/Kyodo News)

But once the Manchester United star saw his fractured by a horror tackle from Deportivo La Coruna’s Pedro Duscher, suddenly it became the most talked about body part on the planet.

Obviously, Twitter wasn’t around back then but, if it had, ‘metatarsal’ would have been in trending overload. Maybe even challenging ‘Paul McCartney- Heather Mills wedding’.

Essentially, if you recall, there was a fear the superstar player would not be fit in time to lead England’s World Cup campaign in Japan and South Korea two months later.

Everyone and anyone was asked about Beckham’s chances of recovery with medical experts suddenly being called upon to discuss specifically the second metatarsal in his left foot, a bone that seemed to almost grow its own identity by the height of all the brouhaha.

It was Beckham’s value to the side, though, that created all the panic, similar to what Castleford Tigers fans must now be feeling with regards Luke Gale.

Dave Craven

Regardless, as we all know, after sleeping in oxygen tents and wearing surgical boots to aid his recovery, the England captain did return in time and ended up playing all five games.

It was Beckham’s value to the side, though, that created all the panic, similar to what Castleford Tigers fans must now be feeling with regards Luke Gale.

Their stellar scrum-half underwent appendix surgery on Tuesday meaning coach Daryl Powell has since been asked countless questions about his chances of playing for the League Leaders’ Shield winners in their semi-final on September 28.

He does not have a definitive answer. No one does. Even Gale may not know himself yet although you would guess, if he feels anything like able to take to the field, he will.

There are countless tales of swift recoveries from appendix surgery, not least Malcolm Alker, the famously tough Salford hooker who returned to action within just 15 days.

Where Gale is concerned, much could depend on how his side fare without him in their next two games – at Wigan tomorrow and at home to Hull next Friday.

If Powell can find a combination during those outings that gives him confidence – and he has various options at his disposal – the coach may decide he can afford to go into that semi-final without the man who is favourite to win the 2017 Man of Steel.

Similarly, his mind may also be altered depending on which side actually finishes fourth to face the dynamic leaders.

Regardless, the situation reminds everyone, under the play-offs system, just how delicate a side’s title chances can become; Castleford have been far and away the best team in Super League this year but a freak injury to their talisman may now leave nine months of hard graft teetering on a knife-edge.

That said, whatever happens, it is a scenario this Tigers squad will no doubt embrace in a bid to prove their champion quality.

There have been instances when players have rushed back only to see their decisions badly backfire.

Leeds Rhinos’ Keith Senior in the 2005 Challenge Cup final loss to Hull FC springs to mind as well as Hull’s own Richard Horne three years later.

Gale will be wary of that. But I’d be amazed if he didn’t line up.