James: All this frustration

Reece James
Reece James

While Latics players have endured the demands of pre-season, welcomed new faces, and felt the nerves and anticipation of the new season, one player has had to watch on.

Fitness drills and working hard are not always enjoyable, and there can be little doubt how much pressure is on a newly-promoted team not just expected by many to survive but hold their own in the Championship.

But ask any professional sportsman and striving to achieve, regardless of the input required, is what they live for – which is why Reece James has been frustrated with his mystery ankle injury.

But he is hoping he can still have an impact on Wigan Athletic’s Championship campaign, despite another setback seeing him undergo a second ankle operation last Monday.

The 22-year-old has been stuck on the sidelines since January with the tendon injury which has had medical experts stumped in the search for a fix.

And weeks after hopes the ex-Manchester United Academy star was nearing recovery, James was dealt another blow with news he’ll be out until Christmas.

Manager Gary Caldwell is confident James will slot back into the squad nicely when he is fit to play, but admitted to sharing in the defender’s frustration.

The boss said: “It’s the ankle that he had surgery on last year.

“He had another tendon injury that needed to be addressed so he’s had that done now and he’ll be two to three months out.

“Hopefully he comes back from that fitter and stronger, ready to help the squad just before Christmas.

“We’re all frustrated with it. It’s been a funny injury and some of the best specialists in the world have not really got to the bottom of it some I’m hopeful that we finally have.”

James certainly put on a brave face via his Twitter account this week following his latest operation, and was walking on crutches a day after surgery.

“Operation gone well,” one of his Tweets read.

“Can’t wait to get back playing with the team.”

And after a false start to pre-season, following his first operation at the end of last season, the timing of his pencilled-in return could provide a huge boost to Caldwell ahead of the infamously busy Christmas and New Year schedule.

Speaking before this week’s operation, when his initial recovery was on track, James said: “I managed to get back outside and running by the end of the season, but I ran out of time to get back playing.

“Over the summer I’ve been working so hard to make sure I’m right for pre-season, and that’s how it’s been.

“I was trying to rush back, but at the same time mindful of not wanting to rush it too much and damage myself for this season.

“It was just a case of being patient and making sure it’s right for the long term.”

Now James will have to rely on his patience again as he watches the first act of this year’s Championship bid unfold.

And while he curse his own luck with injury problems that haven’t been straightforward to solve, he says he is grateful for the help he has received from those around him.

“I’ve had a few injuries, but they always tend to be uncommon injuries that end up being a problem, and nobody seems to know what’s going on until we’re two months down the line,” he said.

“I can’t say a bad word about anyone who dealt with the injury.

“I was treated very well, I saw the very best people, the surgeon in Spain was the best around, and I’ve had the best care.

“I was being diagnosed by different surgeons and different specialists, and everyone was saying something different.

“It was left to myself and the physios to go with the one we thought was the best surgeon with the best assumption of what was wrong.

“I’ve been doing a lot of work on my own over the last few months, which was a frustrating period for myself.

“But you can only try and get your head round it, I’ve had my family at home getting me through it.”

And having missed-out on the League One title celebrations, which saw Latics win promotion at the first attempt in style, he is determined not to miss out on any potential celebrations this time.

“Last season was a difficult time for me because the team was winning and people were celebrating, but you don’t really feel a part of it,” he said.

“Even though I was a part of it at the start of the season, it does feel like you’re on the outside.

“All you can do is support the lads, be there for them and try and be as supportive as you can.”