'It was like a bomb had gone off in there': Manchester City starlet Alex Robertson on his horror Portsmouth injury - and fighting back

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The former Manchester City and Manchester United midfielder made 27 appearances for the Blues

If the freak manner of Alex Robertson’s injury wasn’t cruel enough, its timing was downright brutal.

Delighted with his flourishing Pompey development, Manchester City had intimated they wouldn’t activate their option to recall the talented midfielder in the January window.

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Alex Robertson will be in pre-season training with Manchester City as he maintains recovery following a freak injury. Picture: Jason Brown/ProSportsImagesAlex Robertson will be in pre-season training with Manchester City as he maintains recovery following a freak injury. Picture: Jason Brown/ProSportsImages
Alex Robertson will be in pre-season training with Manchester City as he maintains recovery following a freak injury. Picture: Jason Brown/ProSportsImages

Then, four days into 2024, Robertson tore his hamstring after attempting a backheel to team-mate Sean Raggett in a small-sided training game.

Such was the severity of the 4C tear, the Australian required an operation - and never played for Pompey again.

Nonetheless, the outlook is encouraging, with Robertson now well on his way back from his agonising set-back.

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He told The News: ‘I was enjoying my football so much so, when it happened, it was devastating.

‘I wasn’t really upset over the injury, more the fact I was doing well in the season and felt I still had a lot more to offer. I definitely wasn’t ready to stop playing.

‘When it happened, we were playing small-sided games in training and the ball was running out of play. Raggs was behind me and on my team, so I tried backheeling the ball to him.

‘As soon as I did so, when my foot hit the floor that was a massive pop in the hamstring in my right leg. I fell to the floor and could hardly move my leg. For the first time in my life, I needed surgery.

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‘When they operated it was pretty messy. The surgeon took before and after photos and, when it was cut open, it looked like a bomb had gone off in there.

‘They grade hamstrings using 1C, 2C, 3C and 4C, with different numbers reflecting the different levels of the tear. Mine was a 4C, the worst one, similar to Tino’s.

‘I’ve had a lot of injuries since I was younger, so I kind of know how to deal with them and get over them. But nothing had been this bad. I couldn’t get out of bed for weeks, was unable to move, dependent on someone doing something for me all the time. 

‘A really good friend of mine, Liam Delap, had also been on loan from City and returned injured, having played at Hull. We rehabbed together and that really helped me through that tough period.

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‘We went away to Portugal on a rehab trip, spending every day together, helping each other through it - and staying sane. Maybe if I had been on my own it would have been a bit tougher.’

In a grim January for the central midfield department, the Blues also lost Ben Stevenson, Joe Morrell and then, in mid-February, Tom Lowery to injury.

Fortunately, they had recruited Owen Moxon from Carlisle to bolster options, while the outstanding form of Marlon Pack would see him crowned as The News/Sports Mail’s Player Of The Season.

Although Robertson reveals he had, at one stage, been on track for a shock April return.

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He added: ‘In the early stages of my rehab, I was really far ahead, so my push and my aim was to try to be back for Pompey’s home game against Wigan. I could either play five minutes or just be involved in the squad.

‘Had Pompey got to the play-offs, which I was hoping they wouldn’t, I definitely preferred automatic promotion, I would have been back for those.

‘Then once Barnsley happened, there really wasn’t much need for me to come back and try to play. It wasn’t worth risking anything, so we came to the decision to stop pushing.

‘Still, I’ve now been back training on the pitch for two-and-a-half months and feel brilliant. I’m getting back to my old self, but I just need to get a bit fitter.

‘With no matches now, I have a month or two to get back fully, fully fit for pre-season with City. There’s so much time to be able to get back to where I was before and I’m sure I’ll be fine.’

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