Exclusive John Welsh PNE column

'I had no idea I would be out this long'
'I had no idea I would be out this long'
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I did not think for a second when I limped off late in the game at Brighton in October that I would still be on the injured list as we get towards the end of February.

It was the calf muscle in my right leg that went in the last few minutes and being the type of person I am, I thought I’d be back training in two or three weeks.

So to be sitting here now, four months on, is pretty frustrating to say the least.

It turned out that it was quite a severe injury, the scan I went for showed up a bad tear in the muscle.

When the full extent of the injury was revealed by the scan, it wasn’t nice to find out but in some ways was a relief – a weight off my shoulders.

Just as I thought I would be ready to start running, I was getting pain in my calf and the scan showed why that was the case.

A couple of times I’d be thinking, ‘I’ll start training next week’ but then I’d get the disappointment of it being really sore again.

I’m now focused on just getting the leg right, letting it heal and getting it back to full strength.

There is not much you can do to advance the healing process, it is about keeping as fit as possible so that when the time comes to train again, I’m ready to do that.

I did some running out on the training pitch on Monday and things have felt okay.

Our physio Matt Jackson is being quite cautious with me in terms of the running, it is just about getting through the different stages.

I’ve been running slowly to start with and the pace will be built up gradually.

This is the furthest I’ve got and hopefully I can keep progressing every time I get out there.

While I’ve been out, it has been a case of hitting the gym and working hard in there.

Jacko has given me a weights programme, strength work and there is the Alter-G machine which allows you to run without putting all your weight through the injury.

Then there is the rowing machine which I’ve got to say I absolutely hate.

The sooner I see the back of the rower, the better.

But it is doing stuff like that which keeps you ticking over and keeps the lungs in good order.

A muscular injury like this is a pain in the backside and requires a lot of patience, something footballers don’t tend to have.

If you get a kick, a bump or a bruise, you can grin and bear it, play on through the discomfort.

With a muscle though, you have to be more cautious, let it mend properly, be a bit more streetwise almost.

What was frustrating about getting the injury when I did, was that I was in the team and playing well.

The team were playing well and getting results, then this happened.

What I know is that when I do get back, I’ll be in great shape because of the work Jacko does with you – any of the lads who have had a long-term injury will tell you that.

Last Saturday was the fourth anniversary of Simon Grayson becoming Preston manager.

Paul Huntington and myself are the only two players left from the squad which the gaffer inherited.

I remember clear as day when he came in and it has been brilliant to play for him.

He lets you get on with things but if you aren’t doing it and not performing well in games or training, he will let you know.

When the gaffer first took over, I knew he had been a successful manager at other clubs, getting three of them promoted.

He has continued that success here, building a great squad and a great training environment.

Long may that continue because he has taken this club forward.

The lads love coming into training here and appreciate the environment they are working in.

They get on brilliantly with his staff and that all leads to success.

Every year, we have taken steps forward. We had a good finish to the season when he first came in.

The following year we got to the play-off semi-finals and then 12 months later we were promoted at Wembley.

Last season we did well in the Championship and the aim is to improve on that this time and finish as high up the table as we can. The fans who went to Wigan last week all had the Simon Grayson masks on.

What was funny was that last Saturday, Calum Woods and myself came in to do some rehab work.

We were in the gym at the training ground and one of the gaffer masks was hanging on the wall looking down at us – even though he wasn’t there, he was still keeping an eye on us!