David Meyler has more reasons than most to be grateful for the chance to walk out at Wembley.
The 24-year-old Republic of Ireland midfielder is likely to start in Hull City's first ever FA Cup final when they face Arsenal on Saturday and as he prepares for the game he is acutely aware of how lucky he will be, having once feared he would not walk properly again, let alone play football. Two serious injuries to his right knee threatened to wreck his career.
Cork-born Meyler was pushing to establish himself in the Sunderland team under Steve Bruce, now his manager at Hull, when he suffered the first injury. It came against Manchester United in May 2010, when Meyler was carried off after damaging his cruciate ligament.
The best guess for recovery was 12 months, if at all, but Meyler fought back after seven months, only for injury to strike again five matches into his comeback. It was in the same knee, but this time the damage was to his medial ligament.
"I was told I might never walk properly again," Meyler said. "That gives you a bit of context, to play in an FA Cup final. I don't know if I will be playing yet, obviously, but to have the opportunity would be fantastic.
"I had made a right mess of my leg, I thought I would not be right for a long time. The first time [it felt really] bad, the second time felt like someone had broken my fingernail but it was the same length of time I needed after the first injury."
Meyler is indebted, in Cup final week more than ever, to Steve Bollen, a surgeon working in Bingley, West Yorkshire, who operated on his knee on both occasions.
"He did a fantastic job on both [injuries] for me, so I have to thank him for looking after me," Meyler said.
"I would not say it drives me on but I appreciate the small things a lot more. When you spend 18 months out injured it is never nice. When you are training every day you relish it and enjoy it."
After a staggered return to the Sunderland first team, Meyler signed for Hull in January 2013 after a brief loan spell. He has made six appearances in the Cup for Hull this season, playing in every round. Aside from his injury-blighted days, there is another reason for Meyler to feel fortunate about the opportunity he will have on Saturday.
He was caught on video appearing to stamp on Adnan Januzaj, the Manchester United winger, at Old Trafford last week. Meyler feared retrospective punishment and a ban that would rule him out of the final. Luckily for Meyler, referee Craig Pawson reported that he had seen the incident, meaning the Football Association took no further action.
"The referee realised there was no malice," Meyler said. "There was a worry and some anxiety [on my part]. Sometimes things can be taken the wrong way but it is all done and dusted now and I can look forward to the Cup final. It will be a fantastic day and I believe we are going to win it."Reuse content