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David Meyler set for an extraordinary return to Sunderland bench

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04 Dec 2010 13:08:09

David Meyler set for an extraordinary return to Sunderland bench

There is a joke going round Sunderland Football Club that David Meyler has his own key to the club training ground. Trapped by the horror of an injury which used to end careers, Meylerdecided there was only one way to tackle the miserable lonely hours ofhis rehabilitation; absolute dedication. So for months, Meyler's would be the first car through the security gates at the Academy of Light. Horror injury: Sunderland's David Meyler is stretchered off after a heavy tackle from Manchester United's Patrice Evra during their clash in May When his fit team-mates left for the afternoon, his Range Rover would still be in the car park and Meyler would still be pounding the miles on the machines in the gymnasium or treading water in the swimming pool. And as the coaching staff headed for home, Academy employees went to scout at evening matches around the region, and even the cleaners and chefs left their stations, Meyler was still ploughing a very lonely furrow; one target in his head, one sentence from his surgeon driving him on. And if it meant he was last to switch the lights off and lock up, he was prepared to do it. 'The surgeon told him he would be back within six months to a year,' his manager Steve Bruce said yesterday after announcing the astonishing news that Meyler will be back on the Sunderland bench when West Ham visit the Stadium of Light tomorrow. 'He decided then that his target was six months and that is the one he set. He was absolutely determined to get back to training on the date of the sixth month and sure enough he was ready to train and ready to go then. 'He is one resilient, big strong lad who has worked tirelessly, it's unbelievable. It is a fantastic tribute to him and the medical staff here as well. It is terrific.' If Meyler had been forced to write off this season, few at Sunderland would have been surprised or unduly concerned. They knew it was serious when the 21-year-old came off the Stadium of Light pitch in agony in May, clutching his oxygen mask, his leg in tatters. Setting an example: Dedicated David Meyler set to return The x-rays nearly a week later were the depressing confirmation that one of the real discoveries of Bruce's reign would be out for a while, at least. They all knew, in days gone by, that it had been the ultimate injury. Meyler's father John has been and remains a major influence on the boy who turned his back on hurling, despite a natural affinity with that game too. His drive and commitment is not accidental, it is hereditary and it is what his father would expect. It has still raised eyebrows on Wearside. Steve Bruce is an old school football manager. He started his career in the small five-a-side gymnasium at the famous Wallsend Boys Club, north of Newcastle and, was forced to leave his beloved North East just days after quitting school. He had to plead with managers up and down the country to sign him. Most would not listen. After serving a few years of hard labour at Gillingham and Norwich, Bruce eventually went on to join and then captain Manchester United. The rewards and the medals followed, even if the England caps evaded him. But even with his background in the game, Bruce has been amazed by Meyler's commitment and dedication. The Sunderland manager said: 'He has a great mentality and a real appetite to work and to make sure he is a player because he is not naturally gifted but by God he gives everything he has got. He is a throw back if you like because he is not one of those pampered ones and you would have him on your side. 'He did the lot, not just the anterior ligament like Frazier Campbell, he severed the whole thing. 'He has done fantastically well but he has been in here probably 10 to 11 hours everyday for the last six months. He is one strong, big *******. 'He has been swimming, working on the leg machines and weight machines the whole lot. He has done everything in his rehab. 'Not every player has that mentality. He is one of those who is a joy to manage because he loves the game and loves being a footballer. He was desperate to get back and when he wasn't in the gym he was watching the training sessions.  Medical marvel: Steve Bruce says David Hayler's progress is a tribute to medical staff 'He is one of those you can't keep away from the place and the biggest thing has been keeping the reins on him. But he is now ready, he has trained for six weeks and played in three games. 'He came through 90 minutes against Chelsea on Monday, where he was particularly impressive, and he comes back just at the right time. He could give is a spark again which is fantastic.' Like Meyler, Jordan Henderson burst into the Sunderland team under Bruce last season, although his arrival and impact took a little longer. Meyler, signed from Cork City by Roy Keane for buttons in 2008, suffered a serious ankle injury which delayed his debut under Bruce but when he did make the first team, he immediately caught the eye. Meyler made 10 appearances in the Premier League last season and Bruce clearly liked him and recognised his potential - as did Giovanni Trapattoni who selected him to play against Algeria and Paraguay before injury struck. New England international Henderson has shown slight signs of fatigue in the last few weeks and Meyler's eventual return to full fitness around Christmas will be a welcome boost to his manager. Bruce added: 'Jordan got a lot of the attention last season and rightly so but Meyler played a huge part when we needed him. He came into the team when we were toiling a little bit and he produced some great performances. 'I remember here Man City at home when he played against Gareth Barry and he was terrific. He has a great future, he is very effective at what he does and although he might not be pretty on the eye, he is a good player. 'For the first time in the last couple of weeks we have seen Jordan looking a little bit leggy but that is normal with a young player. He has had no rest because he has shown no signs of it in 18 months but we will look at it and Jordan being Jordan will want to put it right.' As well as a fit again Meyler, for the first time, Bruce will have three fully strikers when Sunderland look to avenge their Carling Cup exit against West Ham tomorrow. Avram Grant side reached semi-finals of that competition in midweek. The Sunderland boss faces the unenviable task of selecting two from Danny Welbeck, Darren Bent and record signing Asamoah Gyan. Asked how he would decide, Bruce jokingly flicked an imaginary coin in his press conference, then added: 'It is very interesting. but it's a great one to have.'  Sunderland boss Steve Bruce seeking defensive cover with concerns over Titus Bramble and Michael TurnerAhead of Hammers reunion, Anton says: I'm not just Rio's younger brotherSUNDERLAND FC: All the latest news from across the web  Explore more:People: Darren Bent, Steve Bruce, Roy Keane, Danny Welbeck, Gareth Barry Places: Newcastle, Norwich, Paraguay, Algeria, United Kingdom


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