Midfielder overwhelmed by support as he prepares for Euros
As Dave Edwards limped painfully out of the game against QPR at Loftus Road in late January, once feelings about Wolves had subsided probably everyone connected with the club – including supporters – were thinking exactly the same thought.
Was this injury going to deny Edwards his European Championships dream?
The dreaded broken metatarsal can be a tough old nut to crack, or more to the point repair, as many a player heading into a major championship has discovered.
The initial 12-week prognosis gave the midfielder a decent chance of having the final three or four games of the season with which to try and return to the Wolves team and convince Chris Coleman of his fitness.
As it was, thanks to his own determination, motivation and lofty heights of self-discipline – not to mention the skill and care of the club’s medical and sport science departments – he was back in advance of that informed estimate.
He featured in six of Wolves’ final seven games of the season, nodded in a goal against now promoted Hull City, and made the provisional squad of 29 which took part in a training camp over in Portugal.
Still though, the eventual prize, of being part of a Wales squad heading to a major championships for the first time in 58 years, was not secured.
Until that was, the confirmation arrived yesterday, and Edwards was able to reflect positively and with good reason on a recovery well done.
“It is an incredible feeling,” he said, after joining up with the Wales camp in Cardiff ahead of Sunday’s friendly with Sweden.
“Ever since I picked up the injury back in January, this was always a target of mine.
“To get back fit quickly and stay fit was the main aim and then to make the provisional squad was the first step.
“I was always desperate to make the 23-man squad and when I got the news it was amazing, pure joy.
“I got to spend a day at home with the family on Monday which was nice and then when we found out on Tuesday that was great.
“Now it’s back to the hard work and trying to hopefully play some football over there as well.”
Edwards, now 30, is very much a self-confessed family man, and wife Emma and children Jack and Evie were equally as delighted with his happy selection news – if not more so!
“Everyone knows what a buzz there is when a major tournament comes around,” he says.
“It is going to be great for me to be involved in the squad and great for my family to know someone out there.
“My wife and my children were delighted when I told them the news and I think my little boy was more delighted than me!
“He really was buzzing – and probably more nervous than I was when we were waiting to hear.
“My parents, my brother and sister, all my extended family, were also delighted.
“I have had so many ‘best wishes’ and ‘good luck’ messages that it has been a bit overwhelming.”
Going back to that injury, and the moment Edwards, despite fearing the worst after hearing a crack, desperately tried to continue in hoping it wasn’t bad news.
Realisation that perhaps not only his Wolves season – but also his Welsh dream – was under threat must have hit with just as much pain as his damaged foot.
“After I got the injury my thoughts quickly turned to how long I would be out,” Edwards recalls.
“There was about ten minutes left in the game when I came off and I was in the treatment room with Jazz (Sodhi).
“I knew I had broken my foot at the time – I have said before I heard the crack – so I asked Jazz how long that would be and he said it was usually 12 weeks or so before you got back training.
“I had a quick scroll through on my calendar on my phone and saw that took me to maybe two weeks left before the end of the season.
“I knew I had to get myself back playing for Wolves to have a chance and that was always the aim.
“It was hard at times and I had to show a lot of discipline at times but it was always going to be worth it if I made the squad.
“The fact I have means I would happily do it all over again!”
With any injury – even one less serious than others which have afflicted Wolves’ personnel this season – there can be tough times and the need to stay focused and stay disciplined to produce a speedy and full recovery.
Much of the time can be spent in treatment room or gym, looking out at the fit players working away in training ahead of a game, which can be painful to watch.
Edwards himself probably hit the nail on the head on the day of an away match, and a deserted gymnasium, when he set about his work with a tweet of the quote: ‘The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching’.
There is plenty of support of course both from within the club – coaching and medical staff – and the fans, who are always keen to see Wolves players represent the club in internationals and tournaments.
Both have played a major part in Edwards’ staying motivated and determined from January to April.
“I owe a lot to everyone at Wolves,” he explains.
“The medical team are amazing.
“Phil (Hayward) was the one who mainly looked after my rehab but all the staff at some point have treated me.
“Jazz, Matt Wignall did a lot of work with me and then Dales (Tony Daley) and Richard Kirby with the sports science side.
“It was o-k in terms of my foot being fine but I didn’t want to take any more time in getting myself fit so all of those guys helped me make sure I maintained my fitness as much as possible.
“The gaffer has also been great all the way through and getting a fair few 90 minutes at the end of the season will also undoubtedly have helped my cause.
“And the fans have been great as well.
“When I did my blog about my recovery the response and the well wishes from the fans was also something which really inspired me.
“The response I have had from Wolves fans since being named in the squad has been overwhelming.
“Everyone seems to be delighted for me and it is always nice to read the messages.
“I’d say 70 per cent have been saying ‘good luck’ – apart from the England game!
“I am sure that Wolves fans will be hoping England and Wales both do well and hopefully they are proud that they have someone representing the club at the tournament.
“Hopefully I can do them proud as well.
“It is nice that Wayne and Vokesey are in there as well.
“Wayne played a lot of games for Wolves at the start of his career and owes a lot to the club for where he is now in the Premier League.
“Vokesey was a bit unlucky in that he was maybe at Wolves at the wrong point of his career.
“I think that was unfortunate because I am sure a lot of fans would want to see him in our team now.
“They have both done exceptionally well and I know they were proud to have played for Wolves.
“It’s nice to have a couple of guys there who I know really well although all the squad get on well.”
So what now for Edwards and Wales, as they embark on their first major championships since the World Cup in Sweden in 1958?
As irony would have it, the final friendly is in Stockholm and then the small matter of the three Group B games against Slovakia (June 11), England (June 16) and Russia (June 20).
For Edwards the ambition is two-fold.
To do everything in his power to force his way into the team and add to his 31 caps to date, and to help Wales try and make a positive impression on the tournament and make as much progress as they can.
“For me, it has always been a step by step process,” he says.
“First the provisional squad, which I got in, and then the full squad, which I have made too.
“Now my full focus is on trying to force my way into the team to try and get some minutes.
“I always said it would be great to just be in the squad and to have that experience of the tournament even if I don’t kick a ball.
“I still maintain that, but equally I have ambitions to go over there and play and be involved and make a difference.
“I will be working hard over the next week to do everything I can to try and do that.”
And on Wales?
“We have got to embrace the position we are in now,” adds the midfielder.
“There doesn’t seem to be any nervousness in the camp – everyone is just really excited.
“It is all new for the manager, coaching staff, medical team, players and fans.
“We have got to go to France and enjoy it and be in the moment but at the same time we believe in ourselves and have a very good squad of players.
“We have a great team spirit and tactically we will be on point.
“We believe we have got a chance to go there and do well.
“I think we will all be disappointed if we don’t get out of the group.
“We feel we have got enough in the squad to do that and if we can get through then anything can happen in the knockout stages.
“For now though we have got three big group games to concentrate on.
“Slovakia is going to be a tough game – they beat Germany on Sunday - we all know everything about England – and Russia will be tough as well.
“But we have got the players to hopefully do the business and finish in the top two.”
Whatever transpires in the next few days and weeks in France at Euro 2016, no doubt many connected with Wolves will be watching, and willing Edwards on.
Except perhaps, against England…….
My wife and my children were delighted when I told them the news - and I think my little boy was more delighted than me!