KELLY ASKEW
Talks to Peter Collins

"It's been the worst injury of my career. I've been pretty lucky so far I've never had any serious surgery, this was the first so it was a pretty big decision as to whether I had it or not but it seems to have worked and I should be back against Sheffield in the B&H Cup quarter-finals," said one of Storm's most exciting players - Kelly Askew.

After a summer spent getting back to fitness Kelly now gave an insight into what it's been like, gory details and all. "I tore my anterior cruciate ligament in half in a game against Bracknell towards the end of last season and they've had to replace it with a bone-tendon-bone prodecure. They took some of my patella tendon and connected it all together to give me a new cruciate ligament. It's quite a major operation. The tendon itself dies and the healing process takes so long because it takes a while for it to regenerate in your body. It was over four months just for the healing process. Then it's been a matter of strengthening the leg back up, even in July my thigh was only the size of my calf. So since I came back at the beginning of August. I've been working on building up the strength and size and I'm almost there."

Yet it could so nearly have been the end of what has so far been a highly successful career. "For a footballer it was a career ending injury, but hockey players have been able to get by wearing a special brace which would do the work of the ligament, which was my other option. But I figured that if I got fixed properly now, I'm young enough to rehabilitate properly and I've only missed the first month and a half of the season. In the long run it will lower the risk of injuring any other part of my knee, for example other cartilage and ligaments, so that was the reason behind it, I'm glad I've done it and although I've not played yet it's feeling strong."

Last season Kelly topped the team's B&H scoring charts with 6+10 for 16 points from 12 games. and despite missing the run-in to the end of the league season still finished fourth in the team's SuperLeague points chart with 16+16 for 32 points from 37 games. Even missing 14 games in total he still finished fourth overall with 23+28 for 51 from 57 games. And being an integreal part of the championship winning team has helped his recovery no end. "Kurt really put my mind at ease . In the springtime he assured me that my knee was not going to be a factor in negotiating a new contract, which was a big, big bonus in my decision to have the operation. That, the fact we had a good year and I wanted to come back helped make my mind up to go ahead with it. It was always going to come down to how well I rehabilitated, and that was helped by the fact that I knew I was coming back with no strings attached, it took a lot of the pressure off. My teammates have been great too. It's been tough in training trying to be as much a part of things as I could but they've really helped because being around them, laughing and joking and inspiring them, has helped take my mind of things. Having such a good start has helped too. I've not had to worry about stepping in a making a big impact. Instead I can come in get my fitness and my confidence back and take it from there. "I challenged myself to make my leg even stronger and better than it was. The first two to three months I just had to let the healing process run it's course, getting my range of motion and extension back by riding the bike, but that was pretty much the extent of it. Then I started doing a lot of roller blading, straight-line stuff no twisting or turning. When I returned to Manchester for training camp I hit the ice for the first time . I've been on the weights too every day doing squats and leg curls, and whereas the other guys have been in the gym one-two hours a day, I've been in there three-four hours! Now I'm really feeling fit both physically and mentally."

He also had a little help from the scenery during the summer that made his daily cycle rides all the more bearable, for Kelly summers in Los Angeles, a little bit more picturesque than say, Longsight. "Living in California you know you're going to wake up to beautiful sunshine every day. I rode my bike through the city, along the beach, and up in the Beverley Hills where I saw some pretty nice houses which was kind of motivational, you know!"

Now Kelly is back with the squad "I just want to concentrate on good defensive play first of all and to get my mental confidence back enough to run into someone and not worry about it. The feeling in the locker room is very positive and it's been great to see the new guys come in and work as hard as they have. They've really gelled, they seem to be on the same page and have the same kind of work ethic as the rest of us. Up to now we seem to have carried on from where we left off last year and if we continue in the same vein it could mean a long hard season for the other teams."