ANTOLIN Alcaraz admits he’s going through weeks and weeks of pure hell as the Latics star embarks on the long road back to full fitness.
The Paraguayan centre-back was just 37 minutes into his new season when he ruptured a thigh muscle at Swansea last month – an injury that could keep him out until the end of November.
Alcaraz paid a heavy penalty for a heavily-modified pre-season programme that lasted barely a fortnight, thanks to his exertions at the Copa America over the summer.
And as the 29-year-old contemplates the long hours of recuperation and regeneration ahead, he admits only the thought of pulling on the blue and white shirt again is keeping him going.
“At the moment, all I can do is stretching, machine work, ice-baths, all the boring stuff – but I know it has to be done,” he told the Observer.
“I just hope this part of my recovery goes quickly.
“I still feel pain every day, but the injury is getting gradually better.
“It certainly wasn’t the way I wanted to start the season, but I can’t do anything about that now.
“The only thing I can do is try to stay as positive as possible, concentrate on my rehabilitation and think about coming back as soon as I possibly can.”
Alcaraz is confident he can shave a few weeks off his ‘worst-case scenario’ lay-off of three months – although he is well aware of the perils of pushing himself too fast, too soon.
“Everything depends on how my body reacts to the treatment programme that’s been set,” Alcaraz recognised.
“The fear is that it may take up to three months, I’m hoping for less, but the main thing is avoiding coming back too soon because I might make it worse.
“I have to be so careful with my work before I can even start to train with the group. So careful.”
Life on the treatment table is a new experience for Alcaraz, who has been relatively fortunate in dodging injuries during his career.
But it doesn’t make the situation any more palatable.
“The injury itself was so innocuous, yet the scan showed a rupture to the muscle,” Alcaraz mused.
“But that’s life, that’s football.
“Injuries are a risk for every player at every level – it’s only a matter of time and they can happen to anyone.
“Obviously I want to play in every game, but my body is saying ‘no’ – and I have to listen to that.
“All I can do now is get my head down and make sure I come back stronger than ever.”