Comeback kid Webber ready for lift off

Danny Webber on the anti-gravity treadmill as he closes in on his Pompey return. Picture: Joe Pepler
Danny Webber on the anti-gravity treadmill as he closes in on his Pompey return. Picture: Joe Pepler
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Danny Webber has been employing Nasa technology to speed up his charge for first-team football.

Now the Pompey striker has reached lift-off as he returns to training today.

For Webber, it marks the latest landmark in his comeback following an anterior cruciate ligament injury in March last year.

He will today step out at Eastleigh with his Blues team-mates to take part in some aspects of their training.

It is encouraging progress which has been sped up in recent weeks.

For the past fortnight, the former Manchester United trainee has been utilising a state-of-the-art anti-gravity treadmill at Three Sixty Health and Performance at David Lloyd Leisure.

Although open to the public, Webber is the first from Pompey to utilise the equipment, which has been in place for two months.

Designed by Nasa, the anti-gravity treadmill works by inflating and countering the weight of the runner to varying degrees, with an effect like running in lower gravity.

The user can then move, walk and run in a normal fashion within the bubble – without feeling any impact on their joints.

After six sessions using the equipment, Webber is expected to be back on grass today.

And the 29-year-old is adamant it has hastened his return from injury.

He said: ‘I’m back out on the grass again today and the treadmill has definitely helped.

‘It feels good because you are not getting the impact through your joints. You feel your feet, but there is no pounding through your joints so your knees and ankles aren’t taking a lot of the pressure.

‘So when you first come back from an operation you are still able to exercise and keep yourself fit.

‘For me, it has been brilliant to break me back in rather than going from nothing into full impact.

‘That transition period is probably most important when you want to get back into training. It’s a really funny concept because you live every day of your life in 100-per-cent gravity.

‘Then, all of a sudden, someone takes your legs away from you, but you are still able to do the action.’

It is a year this month since Webber sustained his injury at White Hart Lane in the Premier League.

In the same match against Spurs, Hermann Hreidarsson damaged his Achilles – a complaint which threatened his very career.

Since then, the Icelandic international has returned with a vengeance, establishing himself in Steve Cotterill’s side.

Now Webber is looking to follow suit as he returns to training with his team-mates today.

He added: ‘It has probably been an important two weeks for me.

‘I’m going to be coming back in, kicking a ball, being involved with the lads a little bit and just getting back into the swing of things.

‘It will be full outdoor training today, but I will not be involved too much with the lads because they’ve got a game coming up.

‘I will, though, be involved for little bits and then come out for little bits.

‘It’s gradual because I have been out for so long, it is easing me in.

‘It’s definitely a big week for me.

‘Inside, I am excited. It was March 27, 2010, since I last played football.

‘I have had butterflies in my stomach for months. I want to play football. Every time I see people playing football it gets me excited.

‘You get to the point where you have to rein yourself back a little bit, you have to know your body and know what’s right.

‘There would have been no point in me coming back six weeks ago – as much as I wanted to do it – and then all of a sudden breaking down and I’m out for three or four more months.

‘You get to an age when you are sensible about it. At 23 I may have come back and played through a pain that I shouldn’t have played through, and then all of a sudden a month later you are back where you started.’

Now the next stage of Webber’s comeback can begin. And Pompey head physio Steve Allen is delighted with the striker’s recent progress using the Nasa technology.

Allen said: ‘In consultation with the surgeon, Andy Williams, who performed Danny’s operation, we are fully behind this form of treatment and are very lucky and fortunate to have this technology available to us to close.

‘Should the eventuality happen in the future where we want to reduce impact forces through knee joints, certainly we will use the technology again in the future.’