Jimmy Downey will make a surprise return on the Wellington Phoenix bench against Newcastle Jets at Westpac Stadium tonight.
Injured in training just days after making his debut as a substitute in the opening Hyundai A-league game against Gold Coast United, Downey was thought to be another week away from full fitness but today was given the all clear to start playing.
“I’ll have to remember to take my bag to the stadium,” the 24-year-old former North Queensland Fury fullback joked.
Downey admitted to being surprised when Phoenix head coach Ricki Herbert told him today he would be involved.
“I thought he would want to see me get through a full week’s training before putting me in,” Downey said.
“I did train all last week but with the team being away in Dunedin and Melbourne Ricki didn’t see me.”
Downey said the injury came at an inopportune time and he was glad to finally be up and running again.
“The pre-season had gone really well and my body felt good and healthy,” Downey said,
“Then in training after the Gold Coast game I was just running with Lochy (Tony Lochhead) and my heel got jammed in the ground.
“It seemed pretty innocuous and the doctors said I should just carry on.
“When after four weeks there was no improvement I had a scan and was told I needed a knee operation.
“It has been pretty frustrating, especially having to do a lot of work on my own when the lads have been away, but I’m feeling really good again and am quietly confident the injury is behind me.
“I would like to get 20 or 30 minutes this week if possible, but I am just glad to be back in the mix,”
Herbert is delighted to have Downey available again with Lochhead and Paul Ifill both still out with groin injuries and Nicky Ward sidelined this week after being concussed after a clash of heads in Sunday’s loss to Melbourne Victory.
Wellington Phoenix: Tony Warner, Manny Muscat, Ben Sigmund, Andrew Durante (captain), Vince Lia, Leo Bertos, Tim Brown, Alex Smith, Daniel, Dani Sanchez, Chris Greenacre. Substitutes: Mark Paston, Brent Griffiths, Mirjan Pavlovic, Jimmy Downey.