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APRIL 1997


Conducted by Andrea Lewis and Ian Blacklidge
Saturday 19 April 1997

Dave Jones PicWhen and why did you decide to become a physiotherapist?

I used to play local league football for Kidlington in the Helenic League and I had a nasty back injury and basically had to stop playing. It was at that time a friend of mine, John Clinkard, who is the physiotherapist at Oxford Utd, and was previously at Wycombe and Everton, persuaded me it was probably a good idea that I should get involved in this side of the game. It has been a long progression since then.

When did you join Wycombe Wanderers and where did you work before that?

I joined Wycombe Wanderers in 1986 and before that I just worked at local level with Kidlington and I helped at Oxford with their YTS team for some time. David Burgess Alan Gane, I used to look after David Burgess as he lived just down the road from me, and that was how I ended up here.

What was your job before becoming a full-time physio and was it a dilemma to go full- time as a physio?

There was no dilemma whatsoever. I am an electrical engineer by trade and I've done the Football Association courses. Since then I have done many courses.

What is in your medical bag?

Basically, there s not a lot nowadays that you can do for people on the pitch. It s really just a first aid bag with splints, dressings, emergency aid articles. There are also some splints and cervical neck collars in the dug-out that are too cumbersome to carry out, but if you do need them they are there. In the modern game there is very little you can do, they are either fit to carry on playing, or not fit to carry on playing. The old days of strapping them up to get them back out there really was clutching at straws . The modern game now doesn't allow any players to bleed when they re on the pitch, the old pictures of Terry Butcher with his shirt sodden and a big bandage is just not allowed. I cringed the other week when Terry Evans had a nosebleed and I was waiting for the Referee to call me on and tidy it all up. It s business, it s health and safety at work.

What is the commonest injury you treat?

Bruising in all the different major muscle groups of the body. Then we go onto ankles, knees and very often muscle stiffness. We might divulge to the press that someone s got a hamstring injury, but it can be a lot more complicated than that, but if I started to say he s got referred pain, then people wouldn't understand. So, basically, he can t play because he s got a hamstring injury. Very often things are a lot more involved that we will ever divulge.

Have you ever had to tell a player that his footballing career is over due to a serious injury?

I've never really had to do that to be perfectly frank with you. I don t think anybody tells anybody that. What happens is that you go through a process of the injury, the surgeons, the hospital do their job to get that person well again and then you help the player go down the road as far as they possibly can and the player then gets back to playing. It can soon become very evident that when they train they are sore, they can t twist and turn like they should do and then basically you go back and see the specialist, he shrugs his shoulders and says sorry, there s nothing more I can do for you and then you start finding other specialists and they can t help you and then I think the player himself knows that his footballing career is coming to an end. But you don't actually sit the person down and tell them. I think the hardest ones I've ever had have been David Titterton and Keith Ryan when they damaged their knees. You assess the knee, you see what s wrong, they you get an MRI scan to confirm the extent of the damage, but invariably the scan report comes back here first and I have to sit the player down and say the scan has shown that you ve damaged the cruciate ligament, we re going to see a specialist and I think that you re going to be out of the game and not play for a minimum of 6 months, probably a year. In that respect we've been very lucky because Terry Evans has had tremendous experience having cruciates done in both his knees and usually I walk out of the room, tap Terry on the shoulder and Tel goes and talks to them. For the lads that have had their cruciates done, he s been a great mentor.

How does it feel when a player has had a very serious injury, you have helped him regain his fitness, and you see him play again?

That is the thing that gives you the kick in life. I get great kicks from watching the team win, I get kicks out of being involved in the changing room with the lads, I might not show it sometimes, but it affects me. However, to take a person who can t play and over a 6 week period of doing the right thing, you sense he can go back on the field and play, it s very satisfying.

How seriously do players take your advice about how they should look after themselves?

In terms of injuries, they usually are very good. They follow it pretty clearly. You have to remember that the exercises I give people are generally very monotonously boring things to do. If I said to you I wanted you to go and step on your bottom stairs 52 times every night, you would go and do it and for the first 3 weeks it would be great, but after that you would be bored to tears. Generally they do look after themselves pretty well. There s a lot of money in the game and people are realising that because the top players are looking after themselves and they are managing to play for a longer period of time. Then you ve got the players lower down look up and realise that they can make a decent living out of playing to that age. I think it s more of a peer pressure thing.

Do the players have any sort of diet to follow?

If I said to you I don't want you to eat rump steak ever, and it was your favourite meal, it wouldn't really matter what I said, you would go home and eat it. What we've got to do is that whilst they are around us they are fully aware of what they need to eat. We encourage a very low fat, high carbohydrate diet with plenty of liquid refreshment, and generally that is a healthy diet to be eating. When we travel away there is fruit on the bus, lasagnes, bread, water, the food we order them for their meals at the hotels is the right sort of food, they don't have steak and chips on a Friday night. They have lots of potatoes, lots of vegetables, chicken, pasta dishes. It s a slow process of trying to get that to happen , there are certain players at the club who have now seen the benefits of drinking plenty of fluid before a game, and refuelling on carbohydrates after the game, and it s quite gratifying to see them take notice. You can t make everyone do it. You try and impress your opinions on people and slowly they start to realise that they've heard something from 16 people now so it can t be a load of rubbish. The great thing about the new manager is that he's come from Aston Villa, they are very geared up to sports nutrition and sports physiology of how they do things. You've probably seen the players warming down after a game, it s something I've always wanted to do, but the managers have never really wanted to do it. Where as John Gregory knows it's the right thing to be doing, he has his team talk after the game and then passes them over to me to get stretched off.

Do you make the ultimate decision about when a player should leave the field because of injury?

Sometimes you think a player should try and have a go, the player doesn't want to carry on, he s having a bad game and I can say that I think he should come off, and then he goes and plays for the next 90 minutes. Generally you know when somebody isn't right and they know when they re not right, so it s quite an easy decision really.

What does the fitness test consist of?

Everybody talks about this miraculous fitness test that happens in football clubs. We don t usually give people fitness tests unless we re pretty confident that they will pass it. If the player is limping around here on Thursday morning it s very unlikely he will get a fitness test on a Friday, until he can run. Over the week they have a structured programme and its progressive rehabilitation, we generally know on a Thursday that things are pretty good and we make sure they can run, sprint, twist, turn, kick a ball, challenge people. Very often we put them in a little competition match, one on one, so they are simulating what a centre-forward will do, or a centre-half will do. We do it for about 40 minutes and if they can do that then there s a pretty good chance he will be alright.

Describe your matchday routine.

Usually, when we re at home, if there are any injured players then we re usually in at about 10 o clock on a Saturday morning. We go through all the treatments and carry on with the rehabilitation, stop for some lunch about 12 o clock, make sure all the medical equipment is in the changing room, make sure the treatment areas are ready for the players. Then sort out all the correspondence that the doctors have to deal with, all the forms that need signing and everything else. The players start to come in about 1 o clock, wait for the team to be announced and then start strapping the players up. Deal with problems with the doctors. Game on, sit in the dug-out, you see basically what I do then, and as you know now, it s 6 o clock and I've just finished sorting all the players out and tidying all their knocks and when I will see them again. Usually we then have a de-brief, the doctors and I with what has happened in the week, who's seeing who, does a player need to see a specialist, etc.

During the close season, do the players have an exercise programme to follow up to pre-season training?

Most of them are now pretty seasoned professionals. They know really what they have to do. As soon as the season finishes they all have a rest, they need it, then after a couple of weeks they actually start to get fidgety themselves. They live on adrenaline and you get adrenaline by doing exercise, so they might start going out, playing tennis or going for a run and they know if they do very little, and come walking in here first day of pre-season that they will feel it for the first few weeks. However, if they go out and do a few runs 2-3 times a week before they come back then usually that s not such a severe task when they arrive.

Does anything annoy you about football in general?

Not really, football is a great life to be in to be honest with you. You get the lows and the highs, but generally it's a great life. It's a good game.

What is the current situation regarding Keith Ryan?

He s back in training. He s done remarkably well this time, his knee is strong, it s stable, he developed pains in the front of the knee where they took the graft from again, which is something he suffered last time. However, it took a lot less time to resolve this time and he s training now most days. It s just a matter of him getting back to playing, so he just needs a bit of time, but he will be ready to play next season.

Who is the biggest hypochondriac at Wycombe?

That is very difficult to answer. Being in the physio department at Wycombe you have to weigh up so much. Is the player having a bad time, is he not playing well, is he playing well, players that are playing well won t come to you with any injuries. Players who are having a bad time and really don t want to be around, they pick up all sorts of injuries and they will take a lot longer to get better. Really I don't think hypochondriac is the right word to use in that respect, it s a game of confidence and if your confidence levels are high then it's great, but if suddenly your confidence levels drop down then every little ache and pain can really start causing problems. Players come in for training and if they can t train because they ve got a problem, all that happens is they stay with me and we adapt their training. We would go to the swimming pool, they would ride mountain bikes, we ve got rowers, so if they can t actually go and train with the team it doesn't mean that they just come in and sit and do nothing. This is starting to become a modern trend. It s best to keep them active, take them up to the training ground, if he can run in a straight line, even if it s only jogging, then this is what he will do. We try and encourage them that they are getting better, to be positive, and they will be back playing soon.

Who is the best player you have worked with at Wycombe?

The best player, there are lots of them. I think the players who I have to deal with are obviously the lads who've had long term injuries. Terry Evans has been brilliant, Keith Ryan, Matt Crossley, Lewis Craker now as well, they've all been brilliant. David Titterton and all the lads who are in here for 6 months, it must drive them absolutely barmy with the work they have to go through. They know that they have to get up every morning, come in and carry on with it. All those that have suffered long-term injuries, I think somewhere along the line those long-term injuries can spur them on because they realise that in a flash they could not be playing again and it makes them realise how important life it. The other one is Simon Stapleton.

What have been your highest and lowest moments at the Club?

The highest moments were winning the trophies, getting into the football league, winning the play-off final, they were all unbelievable moments. The lowest moments, after getting promotion out of the Vauxhall Opel Premier into the Conference and then spending 2-3 years struggling around at the bottom of the Conference. With the promotion, that was my first year at the club, and it was euphoric, we had a great season, my first season at such a high level, I was in awe of it all. Then we went up into the Conference. We had to go to places like Runcorn, get beaten then trundle all those miles back down. It was quite a low time. Then when Martin O Neill came and we had a fantastic period of time under Martin. The fans enjoyed it as much as I did and we just seemed to go from strength to strength. Moving to Adams Park was a great experience. I think we all look at last season as being quite a low season, but it wasn't such a bad season. We had set ourselves such high standards that anything other than that was going to be a disaster. The highs were mostly winning at Wembley 3 times in 4 years. There are lads in the changing room now who've played x number of games in the football league, but have never been to Wembley.

Who decides if a player is fit to play or not, and is the decision negotiable depending on the importance of forthcoming matches?

That one question encompasses a lot of things. Basically, if a player can t run he can t play, so the player has to be fit enough to play, however, there might be a risk factor that he hasn't trained all week and therefore that the muscle isn't strong enough to cope with everything. Then you sit down and discuss it with the Manager, if you've got a manager who is willing then you discuss it and put your points across. I ll say that I think he has done remarkably well in the last week and I find it a bit strange how he has come on so well, but in my opinion what we need to do is put him back in training on Monday and let him train all week with you and then you can do what you like with him. Then the manager will say that he really needs him this weekend, so you might decide that a substitute s position may be a good position for him, and you just play it by ear. I ensure that the player is fairly close to being fit. There is never a scenario where a player is going to endanger themselves irreparably. We always air on the side of caution. There may be a little doubt and the manager will decide to rest him for a game. It's all very calculated what goes on down here. The days of climbing off the table, jogging up the side of the pitch, passing a fitness test and limping off after 15 minutes have really gone. The stakes are too high for that.
In the past there has been clear evidence that players have been given anti- inflammatory and pain killing drugs to enable them to play in important games. This has sometimes led to permanent damage.

Does this practice still occur in today's football?

I wouldn't like to say what happens at the top level. However, what I do know is that I don t give them. None of the doctors here give them. Usually what is tending to happen now is that under the drug testing rules and regulations we have to inform the Football Association every time anybody has one. I think people are realising that if a player can t play for 4 weeks, it s better to let him have the 4 weeks off and get right, other than inject him up because even though you inject them up the problem never disappears. In today s game, which is far quicker, faster and often more physical, it s not likely to happen. Players know that they can earn so much money from the game that they realise it s not the right thing to do. We do give anti-inflammatory injections, Cortisone, however, it usually involves seeing an Orthopaedic Surgeon, if he feels it necessary to do that then the player rests for 7-10 days to allow the injection to work and then they go back on the rehab side. Even after an injection the players are usually very uncomfortable. The whole world has changed so much, everything is calculated now, everything that goes on here. We have to ensure that the players welfare is looked after and cared for, that is of paramount importance, without the players there is no team to go out there. Regarding permanent damage, the only statement I can make to you about that is that anything in life your don't know what the effects will be until some time later, so whilst at the time those people are saying their knees are all horrible, at the time it would be interesting to know how much literature there was available to advise doctors of the consequences of what they were actually doing.

Did you want to be a footballer when you were a lad?

Of course I did. I spent every spare hour I could kicking a football around. I played for county teams when I was at school, I played centre-half, then I went to play for Kidlington, but was besieged by injuries, and ended up having major back surgery.

What do you do in your spare time?

I've got 2 young children, so there s not an immense amount of spare time with working here and helping my wife with them. Last year I did a big course and did a lot of studying on that. That took up an awful lot of time. Hopefully I m going to be doing a part-time degree course in Sports Therapy and Sports Science. I basically try and relax and enjoy the family, everybody tells me how quickly they grow up and I m beginning to realise that now. I like to watch most sports, looking through Ceefax to see what is going on. I don t go and do train-spotting or anything like that. I like listening to Chris Rea with my two boys and their drums and trumpets. I like to watch Only Fools and Horses, Porridge.

Do you support a football team?

I spent some time in Colwyn Bay, North Wales where my Grandmother used to live and everybody there either supported Liverpool or Everton. I m a Liverpool fan fortunately, or unfortunately, whichever way you look at it. My cousins come from up that way and you either supported one or the other, plenty of rivalry.

Do you like it here at Wycombe?

I like it here very much. When Brian Lee was here and the club was being built, he was designing and running the contract. He came to me and asked for my thoughts on the medical department. I told him how I thought it could be better and he took the ideas on board. Last season, England came here for a behind closed doors friendly, the England doctors couldn't believe the set up here. We've got a better set up in terms of the rehab centre than Arsenal have got. I think that outside of the Premier League we are second to none and I wouldn't be surprised if some of the Premier League clubs aren t up to our standards. I ve set it up, got it how I want it, the players realise that getting on an exercise bike is as an important part of their treatment as having an ice-pack on and doing their exercises. Basically they re all together, they're not separated and they all have their treatment together. I think I would have a rude awakening if I went anywhere else, to see how they have to manage. The Directors here are very supportive as are the Vice- Presidents. They have a draw every week and the profits at the end of the season come to us to see if we need any new equipment. I ll put in a case for it and we get the equipment that way. A classic a few years back when Terry Evans smashed his knee up, we needed a new piece of equipment because of physically how strong he is, the equipment we had wasn't strong enough for strengthening Terry's legs up to the level they needed to be at. I went to the Chairman, he went to the Vice-Presidents, the money arrived and we bought the equipment.

Thanks very much to Dave Jones for making his long working day even longer to complete this interview with us.

originally published in The Wanderer magazine May 1997
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