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Ellie Roebuck on her four-week injury that lasted five months

Ellie Roebuck puts most 22-year-olds to shame.

By the time the goalkeeper celebrated her 22nd birthday, she had already represented England, lifted the FA Cup, won the WSL Golden Glove, been Manchester City’s number one for two years and played at the Olympics. Yeah, me neither.

A career that had exclusively been on an upward trajectory hit its first stumbling block in August of last year as Roebuck suffered a calf injury on the eve of the 2021/22 season. After being ruled out of City’s Champions League clash with Real Madrid, manager Gareth Taylor described the injury as a ‘slight issue… nothing too severe’ and was hopeful she could to return for her side’s WSL opener in four days time. Roebuck didn’t feature for another five months.

“Tough, really tough,” Roebuck told 90min. “The injury itself it was so out of my control, I didn’t know what was happening. There were times when we didn’t have a solution, we didn’t know how long it was going to be, nobody knew. It was just quite a long, mind numbing process.”

An initial scan gave a prognosis of four to six weeks out. After briefly returning to the pitch, a second MRI revealed a tear to another part of her calf and complications with scar tissue followed. Roebuck lost all range of motion in her knee because of the pain. The 22-year-old travelled to Barcelona to see one of several specialists – to no avail – before a breakthrough finally came in December.

As Roebuck sat on the sideline, City were knocked out of the Champions League and beaten four times in the WSL, while new England boss Sarina Wiegman named her first three squads as Euro 2022 preparations stepped up.

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“I think more mentally (it was tough), seeing the team not in the place they want to be and just being helpless and not able to do anything about it,” she added.

“And Sarina came in at England and I’d missed out on the first few camps with such a huge summer ahead, so there was a lot of uncertainty and a lot of things that ran through my mind at the time. Now I’m just so grateful to be back on the pitch, because there were points of rehab where I really didn’t know if I’d make it to the back end of the season.”

Injury rehab can be an isolating process, but this wasn’t necessarily the case for Roebuck given the sheer volume of City players who have had spells on the sideline this season.

“It was almost like we were ticking people off getting them back on the pitch,” Roebuck laughed. “I was hoping mine would come a lot sooner that it did but people kept overtaking me. I was betting people: ‘I’m going to be back before you’ and then nope, another one overtakes.”

Rehabbing alongside Roebuck was fellow shot stopper Karen Bardsley, who is hanging up her boots after Sunday’s FA Cup final.

The 37-year-old has been a key figure in Roebuck’s career. In the space of three years, Roebuck went from idolising Bardsley at the 2015 World Cup, to training alongside her and then competing with her for a starting spot.

What was it like training with England’s number one as a teenager?

“Crazy, crazy. There’s so many times the ball would just fire past me and I’d be like: ‘there’s no way I can do this.’ But she just kept with me, kept patient. She was training to be England’s number one, but she had this kid who was crap probably ruining her session, but she was so patient, so supportive, and I owe her a lot for that.” 

The return of Roebuck and other key personnel has seen City’s fortunes transform during the second half of the season. They could sign off the campaign with a domestic double with victory over Chelsea in the FA Cup final – a side against who Roebuck turned in one of her most memorable performances.

In 2018, following an injury to Bardsley, the youngster was unexpectedly thrust into the thick of the action from the bench against the Blues, aged 18.

“When KB went down, I was looking around thinking ‘someone’s gonna have to go warm up’, and then I was like ‘oh, it’s me’.”

She turned in a mammoth display to preserve a clean sheet against one of the WSL’s most potent forward lines.

“I’ve made a career on that!” Roebuck laughed. “Hopefully I can have another game like that at the weekend; that’d be nice.”

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