Serious injuries have taken their toll on patched-up United’s season

Michael Ruddy has been one of several long-term casualties for Ballymena United this season. Picture: Press Eye.
Michael Ruddy has been one of several long-term casualties for Ballymena United this season. Picture: Press Eye.

I HEARD a rumour the other day that a group of television producers planning a re-make of the cult television medical series Emergency Ward 10 were considering using the Ballymena United treatment room as a possible location.

I joke, of course, but the raft of injuries which have faced United boss Glenn Ferguson and his medical staff this season have been no laughing matter.

Last week’s news that Jamie Davidson will miss the remainder of the season with a cruciate knee ligament injury was the latest setback in a campaign which must have had club sports therapist Gordon McCartney and his assistant Suzanne Rollins reaching for the headache tablets.

I have to say I have rolled my eyes on numerous occasions as I read about, or watched football managers blame a spiralling injury list for the downturn in their team’s fortunes.

Despite having pretty good justification for doing just that, I have to say Glenn Ferguson has never sought to go down that particular avenue.

I remember after one defeat, when I put forward the absence of a number of key players as a contributory factor, he replied: “We still had 11 players out there against 11 and our 11 didn’t work as hard as our opponents did.”

It’s not so much the number of the injuries sustained by Ballymena’s players as the nature of them which is the most eye-watering statistic.

We’re not talking here about someone being out with a chipped fingernail or a tight calf muscle.

Davidson’s injury is the second cruciate-related knee condition sustained by a United player this season after Johnny Taylor’s untimely coming together with the Showgrounds stock car track in October.

The loss of Taylor, a colossus in the centre of defence, has been a major blow and although it may yet transpire that his injury may not require surgery and the subsequent lengthy rehabilitation period, his absence in the meantime has been widely felt.

Throw in the fact that skipper Allan Jenkins missed a full two months with a medial knee ligament injury and that fact that it has taken him a further month to get back to his bustling best and that was another telling loss.

His midfield colleagues Gavin Taggart (six games with an ankle problem), Alan Davidson (cracked ribs) Gary Thompson (one month) have also been disruptive and there have been instances where some of those players have been rushed back before they were fully recovered, simply to fill large holes.

As well as Taylor, injuries have prompted defensive reshuffles, with Michael Ruddy out since November with a broken foot. More recently, Aaron Stewart has been sidelined by a hamstring injury which shows no signs of going away, while David Munster has played through the pain barrier in recent weeks simply because he has had to. The medical staff have been working diligently with Denver Gage after a full year out with a groin complaint.

Injuries, along with suspensions, are part and parcel of the game but with the number and depth of injuries sustained by Ballymena players, it has meant zero continuity in key areas of the team,

When you look at the likes of Cliftonville, already with the Irn Bru League Cup in the bag and surely huge favourites for the league title, they have had a favourable run with injuries, to add to their immense talent.

Hopefully Ballymena can soon start to get the ‘walking wounded’ back in action for the remaining months of this season, which might give a truer reflection as to the squad’s ability.

* Follow Ballymena Times Sports Editor Stephen Alexander on Twitter (@Stephen_Bmena).