Millwall defender on next challenge: 'I’m not here to be a cheerleader like I was last year"

BYRON Webster paid tribute to his family after his recovery from injury – and to Steve Morison’s cooking.

Webster, 31, played his first senior game in ten months when he came on at half-time in Millwall’s 5-0 friendly win over Dartford last week.

The centre-back had been back training for a number of months, but it was a first chance to test out his knee in a more competitive game.

Since last September, Webster has spent the majority of his time at Millwall’s training ground recovering from surgery on a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

In his time off he went back up north to switch off with his family and friends. Webster lives with Morison in an apartment near Millwall’s training ground. Morison’s family home is in Northampton.

Former Yeovil defender Webster also praised his team-mates for their support. It was only a week before his own injury against Barnsley last September that he called Shaun Williams to offer encouragement after the midfielder damaged his knee against Reading, a setback that kept him out for three months.

Webster came through the Dartford game unscathed, before jetting off with the rest of the squad for their training camp in Portugal.

“I was nervous beforehand, not because I wasn’t confident in my knee but because of my own expectations and making sure I got to my levels,” Webster said.

“I rang my missus before the game and my little girl came on the phone and asked, ‘Daddy, what are you doing?’ I said: ‘I’m getting ready to play football.’ She was surprised I was playing again after so long out and afterwards when I spoke to my wife she said my little girl was running around the house, buzzing I was back.

“Willo and I were in the gym together for a while. We helped each other and I have Moro living with me which is a big help. I had him cooking for me and doing other silly little things that you take for granted. He’s now the head chef in the household – and even if what he cooks is bad I tell him it’s good.

“All the lads were great. Once the game is in flow there is no thinking about the knee. Once you’re in full training as well any worry goes out of your head. There have been a few tackles in training but I’m super confident in the knee.

“There’s no holding back.”

The centre-back in action against Dartford – his first senior game in 10 months.

Webster’s injury couldn’t have come at a worse time, in the last year of his contract that he would be coming out of at the age of 31.

He went away for a short break after the Barnsley game, but his knee was so stiff he called the club and was instructed to return home.

He admitted he was shocked when he heard the nature of the injury, but his leg muscles were so strong it meant he had a head-start in his recovery and that made him confident he would return.

Millwall offered him a one-year contract which he signed over the summer, but it wasn’t something that overly worried him.

He explained: “Looking back it probably should have been a concern but it wasn’t. I think because when I did my knee somehow I played the whole game afterwards. Even though I knew later it was serious I knew I still had a lot of strength in it. I’m a freak!

“I’d gone away for a couple of days and was more worried about getting a fine from the manager for not being able to train.

“I was confident I’d get back. Even over the summer when my agent was talking to the club I was chilled and thinking what will be will be.

The 31-year-old wore the captain's armband against Dartford.

“The recovery wasn’t as bad as you think. I was on crutches for a week or two and then it’s just about getting it moving. Touch wood since the day I did it there hasn’t really been any pain. Obviously there was instant pain when I did it but after that it was okay.

“I have to give credit to the medical staff, Paul [Tanner, head physio], the masseuses. I was able to come back and I feel good now.

“I’ve been training for months, running and running for I don’t know how long. Since I got signed off by the surgeon I’ve been working hard. I’ve been joining in with the training group, dropping out when I needed to.

“Now I’m officially not an injured player. My name isn’t on the list in the treatment room. That’s a relief. I’ve not missed a day, not missed a minute of training so far this summer.”

Webster was handed the captain’s armband at Princes Park, a touch he appreciated, but he added: “Whether I wear it or not I’m still a gobby so-and-so on the pitch. It’s nice but it doesn’t make a difference for me.”

Webster’s next battle will be to reclaim a regular first-team spot, with Shaun Hutchinson, Jake Cooper and Murray Wallace for competition.

“When I first came here it was tough times,” Webster said. “You’re always proving yourself and I think I have proved myself to the fans, the club.

“It’s another challenge. I’m not here to be a cheerleader like I was last year when I was sidelined. I just need to get to where I was last season, the season before, get back to my standards and the rest will take care of itself.”

Image: Millwall FC 

John Kelly