Despite 2020 being just seven weeks old, Saturday’s 1-1 draw against Birmingham City was our tenth game in all competitions this calendar year. That draw extended our unbeaten run in the Sky Bet Championship to four games and leaves us just four points behind Leeds United in second.
Those ten games have all been completed without a quartet of Brentford players, Sergi Canos, Nikos Karelis, Marcus Forss, and Ellery Balcombe, while Kamohelo Mokotjo hasn’t featured since the end of January. Ahead of the next block of fixtures, which begins on Saturday with our visit from Blackburn Rovers, Neil Greig, Head of Medical, gave an update on the health of the Brentford squad.
Sergi Canos suffered a serious knee injury during a Sky Bet Championship game against Nottingham Forest in October 2019. The winger underwent surgery late last year which preceded a period of rehabilitation with Sergi returning to outdoor training earlier this month.
“Sergi has made really positive progress during the past six to eight weeks," revealed Neil. "He underwent surgery in Spain and then returned to the Club at around four weeks post-surgery. The type of injury that he has means that there is a huge emphasis on developing his strength and confidence by using initially simple, and then progressively more complex and challenging tasks. Sergi has been incredibly committed to facing this challenge and this positive attitude is beginning to pay dividends for him.
"It’s now around four months since the surgery and we began Sergi’s pitch-based rehab two weeks ago. We haven’t set timescales for a proposed return to play although, so far, things are progressing nicely and we’ll continue to monitor Sergi’s progress objectively over the coming weeks"
Striker Nikos Karelis also suffered a serious knee injury in October, his coming during our 3-2 home win against Millwall. As with Sergi, the Greek international underwent a period of rehabilitation at Jersey Road before undergoing surgery in November. The 27-year-old is now back in west London and ready to step up his rehabilitation.
“Similarly to Sergi, Nikos underwent surgery in his home country of Greece," said Neil. "Following this, the Club and Nikos felt that he would be best placed carrying out his early recovery in Greece, where he could be near family. Nikos returned to the Club around five weeks ago and has begun working through a similar, task-based, pathway as described for Sergi with a similar level of commitment and positivity. The next stage of Nikos’ recovery over the coming weeks will be to begin working through his pitch-based progressions.
"Whilst we can’t assume that each and every knee injury will progress at the same rate, we can apply similar processes and objectively measured task to ensure the each player achieves the required milestones along their own individual pathway back to play."
Midfielder Kamohelo Mokotjo was withdrawn at half-time during our Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round tie against Leicester City, which happened to be his 100th appearance for the Club, following a challenge shortly before the interval.
On the South African international, Neil said: “Kamohelo was unfortunately injured whilst making a block tackle during the Leicester game. It wasn’t considered safe for him to continue the game following assessment at half-time and our investigations during the following week showed that he had sustained a knee ligament injury that would prevent him playing for several weeks. Whilst assessments suggest that the injury does not require surgery, it does require a period of time where it is allowed to stabilise and heal naturally and Kamohelo is currently within his fourth week of this period of his rehab.
"The short term plan is to reassess the stability of the joint in two weeks time, following which we can make some clearer plans for his return to pitch-based work and then training. In the meantime, Kamohelo is working hard in other ways in order to maintain his general conditioning, which should minimise the time taken to return to full fitness."
Young striker Marcus Forss saw his productive time at AFC Wimbledon cut short early in January after picking up a hamstring injury. The 20-year-old left Kingsmeadow with 11 goals and one assist to his name in 18 Sky Bet League One appearances.
“Marcus’s injury was doubly disappointing given how successful his loan spell had been to that point," said Neil. "It was obvious from the outset that the injury was significant and the advice we received was that surgical repair would offer Marcus the best opportunity to return to full performance. The initial weeks of Marcus’ recovery have been deliberately restful in order to allow the surgical site to heal and he is now beginning his early phase rehab progressions.
"Our expectation is that Marcus will achieve a full recovery from this issue and return to play once the key objective aims of his programme have been achieved."
Another youngster to see a loan spell away from Griffin Park cut short by injury was Ellery Balcombe. The England Under-21 international returned to Jersey Road in December with Viborg FF embarking on their mid-season break but, following surgery on a back injury, the 20-year-old has stayed in England to continue his rehabilitation.
Speaking about Ellery, Neil said: “Ellery had been troubled by pain for some time, which he’d initially coped well with and managed with specific exercises and treatment. However, more recently he began to feel that this issue was affecting his capacity to train and play at his maximum. Our previous investigations meant we were well aware of the underlying issue and our previous efforts had been aimed towards surgery being avoided. However, following Ellery’s gradually increasing symptoms, he and the Club consulted with a leading specialist in this field and felt that surgery and rehabilitation would be the most effective means of us offering Ellery long-term relief from symptoms.
"Ellery’s surgery was successful and he will now begin working hard towards ensuring that he recovers fully and returns to play at the most appropriate time."