Exclusive Calum Woods PNE column

Getting to grips with Fulham's Floyd Ayite
Getting to grips with Fulham's Floyd Ayite

This week I signed a new contract and it was great to extend my stay at Preston North End.

Getting the deal has come on the back of me recovering from a serious knee injury, so that is a big boost.

My focus has been trained on getting back to full fitness and forcing a way back into the squad, so anything to do with the contract I left to my agent to sort.

It has been a long road back to fitness, so to have started two games recently and had another run from the bench, feels great.

I always felt confident that I would come back from the injury fitter and stronger because the physios we have here, Matt Jackson and Lewis Hiney, are great at what they do and work you hard to get you right.

There are spells where you don’t feel like you are getting anywhere, then suddenly you take a few steps forward.

The injury happened at Oldham in a pre-season game in July last year.

Within a couple of days of it happening, I found out that I would miss the whole of the 2016/17 season.

That was hard to take and I had to get my head round it.

I had to accept that there wasn’t a chance of being able to get back playing, even for the last game of the season.

I had surgery to repair the two damaged ligaments and then it was a case of getting the rehab work done.

It is a gradual thing, you work in the gym, do exercises to strengthen the knee and eventually get to do some running.

Right at the end of last season, I managed to join in with the lads in a couple of training sessions, which was a big thing. I didn’t want the season to end because I knew by then I was getting closer to fitness.

During the summer I kept the work going so I could do pre-season training.

One thing I was warned about by the physios was that I would probably pick up a slight niggle at some stage.

That proved to be the case and I got a bit of a groin strain during pre-season.

It is quite common when you come back from a 
long-term injury because your body is having to adjust to the training and the pace that is done at.

The physios told me not to worry too much about it and I recovered quite quickly.

I feel like I’m getting back to where I was – playing the full 90 minutes at Fulham last week was a big hurdle to have got over.

In my other start against Birmingham, I’d lasted for 80 minutes, while I had the last few minutes as a substitute when we beat Cardiff.

When I was out injured, there were other lads in the gym with me who also had long-term injuries.

You encourage each other and are there for support and advice.

At the moment, we’ve got Greg Cunningham and Tom Clarke out injured.

Both are big characters who will come back stronger. Both lads have come back from serious injuries before and they’ll do so this time.

When they are fit, Tom and Greg will strengthen the squad a great deal.

What I’ve had to get used to, just like the rest of the lads, is the intensity which the gaffer wants us to play at.

I think we’ve all adapted very well, our fitness levels are good, and we have been seeing the results on the pitch.

My two starts came at right-back in place of Darnell Fisher and that is obviously my natural position.

It is strong competition at right-back. Darnell has come in and done really well this season – Marnick Vermijl did well there last year.

To be fair, competition is strong all over the pitch and that drives us all on.

I can play anywhere across the back four and will slot in where I’m needed.

In the play-off final at Wembley I was the left-back and I’ve played there quite a bit during my career.

This weekend we have a big game coming up against Wolves at Molineux.

Any game in this division is tough but Wolves are top of the table and looking strong.

Our focus will be on what we have got and getting our tactics right.

We’ll go to Molineux fully prepared, knowing what the gaffer wants.

While Wolves might be top of the league, we all know what this division is about.

It is unpredictable and exciting, everybody is 
capable of beating one 
another on their day.

Just when you think a team is putting a good run together, they come unstuck when you don’t expect it.

We were ever so close to beating Fulham last week only to be denied right at the end.

If we perform as well as we did there and have a bit more fortune, who knows what could happen on Saturday?