Mills back ahead of schedule despite 'mentally tough' road to recovery

Joseph Mills.Joseph Mills.
Joseph Mills.
'You play it through your mind leading up to the game but when you actually get on the pitch, you go on autopilot I guess.'

Cobblers' club captain Joseph Mills felt relief and joy in equal measure after making his first appearance following six months out with a fractured ankle.

The 32-year-old left-back suffered the injury against Crawley Town back in August and only returned to the pitch during the closing stages of Tuesday's win over Newport County.

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But despite a couple of setbacks and some gruelling rehabilitation work, Mills defied the medical experts to get back fit ahead of schedule.

"From what the doctors and the specialist were saying, I think I'm back earlier than they expected, which is brilliant for me," he said.

"As a professional footballer, I wanted to be back even earlier than that but to be out there again at this stage of the season, with still a good chunk of the games to go, is massive for me.

"It was great to get back on the pitch. It's a funny feeling. You play it through your mind leading up to the game but when you actually get on the pitch, you go on autopilot I guess.

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"You fall back into what you're used to and what you know and I thought coming on, I could bring my strengths to the table and be vocal and be strong and make sure we saw it through."

Whilst Mills' recovery has largely gone well, there were some dark moments.

"It’s been a long, bumpy road to get back fit this time," he admitted. “I think I was quite fortunate with my two injuries last season but this one has been a bit more difficult.

"There were definitely a couple of setbacks. When I came out of the cast and I had the staples taken out, I suffered quite a bad reaction and that set me back a couple of weeks.

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"My kids and the wife helped me a lot through that stage because I was away from the building and the staff and all the players.

"Then, I was on the bench a couple of times but we were training on the 3G and with it being so soon after the injury, it just didn't feel any good.

"That pushed me back another week and that's always tough to take mentally because you feel you can take on anything.

"I mentally had to take a step back and think about how far I had come because I was still ahead of schedule."