Wayne Hennessey today acknowledged he faces a tough battle to dislodge team-mate and pal Carl Ikeme from the Wolves goalkeeping spot – as he targeted one more reserve game to hit top fitness.
The Wolves keeper followed up 45 minutes for the reserves against Chelsea with 90 against Fulham at Telford on Monday night, his first full outing since suffering a cruciate knee ligament injury in the Premier League game at Sunderland back in April.
Hennessey has earned plaudits from the Wolves management and medical staff for the dedication to his recovery, but knows now – after Monday Under-21 League game with Reading – another battle will begin!
“I’ve known Carl since we were in the Academy and I’m really pleased for him with how he has done,” says Hennessey.
“He’s had some tough times with injury and having had this I know what he has been through.
“He is a top lad and a fantastic goalkeeper and I hope he continues to do well.
“It’s up to me to keep putting pressure on him and we’ll see what happens.
“I’m ready to kick on now and it’s going to be a good battle between the three of us.
“I think Wolves are fortunate to have three good goalkeepers on the books.
“It might be blowing our own trumpets a little bit but I’d like to think we’ve got three goalkeepers who stand up very favourably to the rest of the Championship.
“Carl has been doing unbelievably and is one of the best in the division, I’ve been in a team which has won the division before and Dorus has come through the play-offs with Swansea.
“We’ve been here for a while and we all know about the competition for places when we are all fit.
“The more competition the better – it keeps you on your toes and there’s no chance of anyone getting laid back or sloppy.”
Being anything like laid-back is the complete opposite to how Hennessey tackled his serious injury.
His hard work and diligence with just one week off during the summer has helped him come back in the minimum timescale expected.
“It is tough coming back from a cruciate but I have worked very hard on my rehabilitation,” says’ Wales number one.
“I only had a week off in the summer and apart from that I just got down to grafting!
“Fair play to the physios they were in all the time with me and helped me.
“I just wanted to work really hard and get back as soon as possible and get that Wolves shirt on again, which I have done now.
“We had a look back at how it had gone this week and it’s been six months out which is a good return from a cruciate.
“They normally say six to nine months so I’ve managed to get back in six, and I also had the meniscus to be done as well.
“It has been hard and there have been difficult days but I’m pleased to have got through it.
“It’s the worst injury I have had and it’s never a walk in the park to come back from something like this – it takes a lot of hard work.
“I’ve had great support from everyone and I do feel stronger for the experience.
“I feel tougher in every way and look at things a lot differently now and don’t take anything for granted.
“I’ve been pleased with the messages I’ve had from fans on Twitter supporting me – they have been fantastic.”
All that support has helped Hennessey back to approaching full fitness, and he is feeling in good shape having got a game-and-a-half under his belt.
“I feel really good to be honest,” he says.
“It’s great to be back playing football and I feel big and strong and, touch wood, the knee has been brilliant.
“It was disappointing that we lost last night but Fulham scored two good goals which I could do nothing about.
“I feel like my reflexes and sharpness are back there now.
“It’s funny when you’re a goalkeeper because you can have 80 minutes without really doing anything and then you can be called on for a couple of seconds.
“So you have to be alert all the time.
“It’s that sharpness and decision-making which are so important as a goalkeeper but I think I’ve got those back after these couple of games.
“I feel really good so will hopefully play against Liverpool on Monday and for me, after that I am there and fully fit.
“I’ve been concentrating on my recovery but I’ve also been looking at Wolves’ results and wanting the team to do well and wanting the big man to do well.
“The last few results may not have been what we wanted but hopefully we can turn that around and get on a good run leading up to Christmas.”