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MacLean thanks coaches and physio after heroic comeback

A broken leg, ruptured ankle ligaments; crumbling cartilage in the knee?

MacLean's comeback was an extraordinary success
MacLean's comeback was an extraordinary success

Steven MacLean has seen more stretchers than Florence Nightingale during a career of footballing rough and tumble but, in the grand traditions of dodgy punditry, the 31-year-old has shown plenty of bouncebackability.

On Tuesday night, the St Johnstone striker marked his return to active service after four months on the sidelines with a brace of goals in a comfortable 3-0 win over Motherwell.

"It was a decent comeback," said MacLean with chuckling nonchalance. It was no laughing matter back in October, though, when he was carted off with a knee injury in a match against St Mirren and anxiously awaited the results of a surgeon's pokings and probings.

"There was a chance that I could have been finished," said the well-travelled Edinburgh man, whose boots have taken him from Forres Mechanics to Plymouth Argyle, with stop-offs at the likes of Rangers, Sheffield Wednesday, Cardiff City and Yeovil Town along the way.

"The surgeon told me it was a possibility because he didn't know what he was going to find when he looked inside the knee. What he did took only about 40 minutes but it seemed much longer just sitting there waiting for his verdict. Once I'd had the operation they were able to give me some good news.

"I had a micro-fracture in the cartilage. So they drilled the hole in my knee in the hope that new cartilage forms and grows back around it, forming a kind of mesh. I have even been told that having the surgery could actually help my career in the long term."

Having opened his account in the sixth minute against Motherwell, a celebrating MacLean pushed and shoved his way to the St Johnstone dugout to share his joy with some of those who have played a big part in his recovery process. A key figure on that long, winding and occasionally wincing road has been the Perth physio, Fearghal Kerin.

"He was there with me, when I was saying I couldn't do the programmes he had given me," said MacLean. "He was the one pushing me on and telling me to get on with it. You go through a lot of pain when you're coming back. Some days you're p***ed off and the staff notice that so they do little things for you here and there.

"The gaffer comes into the physio room to hammer you, keeping your spirits up by asking when you're going to be back.

"You end up close to the physio and the fitness coach because you spend so much time with them. For the last four months, Fearghal has been my gaffer.

"When I scored I was all over the place, I wanted to find him but he was sitting in the dugout. I couldn't see him at first but then I noticed him so I managed to give him a wee slap on the face. I've had a few injuries in my time but I don't think I've ever come back and scored two goals before. It was emotional."

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