By Joe Mansfield.
IN July 2019 Wales international Jess Fishlock suffered a career threatening injury playing for OL Reign in the National Women’s Soccer League in America.
Fishlocke who is 34 today, persevered through a year of rehabilitation for her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury and double meniscus tear.
Wales’ most capped player doubted she would ever don the Welsh jersey again as she withstood both physical and mental torment on her road to recovery.
“I felt that I didn’t know if I would make it back. You know you feel like you’re so far away from it.
“You just have to work really hard and have good people around you that won’t let you fall into a deep, deep hole that you can’t get out of. I’m very lucky because I have really good people around me.
“When you go from an injury like that, especially at my age you don’t know if you are ever going to play again.
“Just being able to play regularly again, week-in and week-out a regular 90 minutes of football right now is something that I didn’t think I would be able to do again but now it’s like I’m a kid again.”
⚽ Jess Fishlock talks about considering retirement after struggling to recover from her knee injury pic.twitter.com/4fjAfQWmCD
— BBC Sport Wales (@BBCSportWales) May 13, 2020
Key to her process of returning to play has been a loan spell at Women’s Super League (WSL) side Reading FC, where Fishlock has been handed regular game time.
Having been out of action for a year and doubting whether she could return, she says that reading took a “risk” and that it is something she will be “forever grateful for”.
Fishlocke has appeared 11 times in the WSL and three times in the FA WSL Cup. The minutes on the field have enabled the midfielder to return to form and she has contributed two goals and two assists for Reading.
“I’d say it took six weeks for me to get into my groove. But once I hit that and got five or six games under my belt then I really did feel like my mind and my body were kind of on the same page.
“Before that I was playing catch-up. I’d know what I wanted to do in my mind, but I couldn’t quite get my body to work at the speed that I wanted it to.
“But now I would say I’m all but there. I’m at like 98-99%, I feel great I really do. I feel about ten years younger as well.
After concerns she would never represent her nation again, the Cardiff-born midfielder returned to the international scene against Norway in September. It was a moment that Fishlock deeply cherishes.
“One of my favourite moments in my career was coming back and playing for Wales after my ACL.
“That has got to be up there as one of my best moments for sure.
“I never thought I’d put on the shirt again so to put on that shirt was just priceless really.”
Fishlock has been a mainstay of the Welsh team for a decade amassing 120 caps during an illustrious career. The superstar has now accepted that she is in the twilight of her career and is unsure of what the future holds.
“I will be back in America at the end of February, looking for another great year in Seattle with the Reign and then I don’t know.
“It’s my last year with the Reign, I’m just going to go over there and try to enjoy myself and then we’ll see.
“I intend to play for Wales for the next couple of years and then I don’t know. I will be coming to the end of my career, so I don’t know.
“The world is my oyster.”