Providing he suffered no setback in the half-hour appearance he made in a friendly against Reading last week, Tommie Hoban should step up his return from injury against Boreham Wood in the Hertfordshire Senior Cup tie at Meadow Park tonight.
Hoban took, by his own admission, much longer than expected to recover from surgery to cure a groin and hip problem at the start of October, only returning to match action last week after initially being earmarked to return at the end of November. Birmingham City were hoping he was going to be back on schedule as they dispatched scout Mick Harford to watch him in action for the Under-21s against Colchester in November, with a view to asking to take him on a short-term loan.
Watford have had to shelve any plans to send him out on loan, focussing instead on making sure he first recovers fully from a second major injury in under three years – he required complex surgery in 2013 to cure a career-threatening ankle problem. He is being eased back gently, and was removed 30 minutes into the 3-2 U21 win over the Royals on Tuesday in a pre-scripted switch.
“It’s amazing to be out there,” Hoban said in an interview with Hornets Player. “Obviously not been out for as long as Joel [Ekstrand] but still felt like a long time, and longer than I probably expected to be out, so to get over it is a really good feeling. I am ready to crack on again. It is not nice being injured but having other people there going through it with you is a bonus.”
Ekstrand has taken up residence in the treatment room for the last 10 months but is also now back playing, lasting 45 minutes against Brentford U21s and then an hour against Reading. The Sweden international should, if selected, play at least 75 minutes tonight.
“[When we are] having treatment on the beds we play games against each other on the iPhones,” said Hoban “In the gym we are spurring each other on, on the bike everyday can be quite hard and boring, so having someone there is a plus.”
Hoban, who turned 22 on Sunday, knows how to cope mentally with injury as it took three hours of surgery in New York, his immune system to fight of an infection he picked up and nine months of painstaking rehab to get back from the ankle issue in 2013.
“The injury I had before I expected to be out for about a year and it was very hard getting over that, but I had to get my head round it and crack on with it,” Hoban told Jon Marks. “This injury, however, I did not expect to be out so long with, so I kept expecting it to get better, but there was a time where it just didn’t feel like it was going to get better. I have to thank the medical team: Rich [Collinge], Mike [Spanou], Danny [Reguera] because they have done such a great job and worked really hard with me over two or three months and, thankfully, I got there in the end.”
Quique Sanchez Flores is a fan of Hoban, appreciating his versatility and, you guess, the fact the Republic of Ireland youth international is still classed as an U21 player, meaning he does not have to be named in the 25-man squad, joining Nathan Ake and Obbi Oulare among the unlimited number of U21 players clubs can name.
“This is very good news [Hoban is back],” Sanchez Flores said. “They [Hoban and Ekstrand] are very good players. I love it.”