Scimeca survives MRSA horror to dream of Wembley

Dave Jones has never been the type of manager to let emotion govern selection, but even the Cardiff City cynic might allow a bit of the old Cup magic to rub off on his teamsheet for today's quarter-final against Middlesbrough. Some things are meant to be, and Riccardo Scimeca and Wembley does indeed seem like a tearjerker waiting to happen.

Eight months ago, the former Aston Villa midfielder feared he would not play professionally again after a routine operation for a groin injury left him with the MRSA virus. Indeed, he was still acquainting himself with the prospect of a life without boots even a few weeks ago. "It's been tough, so tough," said the 32-year old on Friday. "I did wonder, 'Am I going to play again?' There were times when it was hard to get out of bed."

Blessedly, the sheets have at last been thrown aside, and following an hour against Crystal Palace in which he gave Cardiff the physicality they have been missing of late, he looks certain to feature at the Riverside this lunchtime. The Bluebirds have been waiting 81 years to return to Wembley, and in Scimeca they have the man with the drive to take them there.

"You know, you don't get many chances to play at Wembley, and in terms of this club it's the biggest game since 1927," said the Midlander. "This year it is a huge incentive considering how the draw is panning out. There are just four clubs left in there from the Premiership, so if we can knock out one more of these, then you just never know. I'd love to return there, even if it was 'just' for a semi-final."

While the Welsh club have not been to Wembley since their famous year when they renamed the English Cup the FA Cup, Scimeca was involved in another– albeit rather less momentous – final there 12 years ago. "Yeah, that was the League Cup final for Villa," he said. "It was a brilliant day, as we went there and beat Leeds 3-0. I think I'm ready for another trip there now."

That would be extra-special, as even a journey to the corner shop seemed beyond Scimeca during the worst of his illness. When Jones watched Scimeca last just 12 minutes in a reserve game, he feared he had lost his midfield enforcer for good, and now acknowledges that only the player's ceaseless desire made the comeback possible.

"It was as almost as if somebody had stuck two electric rods into my pelvic area," said Scim-eca, recalling the lump the size of a tennis ball that appeared next to his groin at Christmas. "I spent two days in bed doing absolutely nothing – I couldn't walk. Negative thoughts did enter my head, they were bound to. I'd had four operations since July and contracted two infections. I said to myself, 'Is this going to be it?' When you're lying there, you do think about your future, about what you're going to do, but you battle on because you want to play this game as long as you can. It's chances like this, going to Wembley, that kept me going, made me get up in the morning when I felt like hell.

"It's funny, but when you get older you realise the opportunities to feature in big occasions get fewer and fewer. When they present themselves you just need to grab them, I'm almost pinching myself at being back and able to play in such a huge game. Even if Dave just puts me on the bench I'll be thrilled."

See Boro entertain Cardiff down by the Riverside on BBC1 today, kick-off 2pm

News
Bobbi Kristina Brown with her mother Whitney Houston in 2011
people
News
The actress Geraldine McEwan was perhaps best known for playing Agatha Christie's detective, Miss Marple (Rex)
peopleShe won a Bafta in 1991 for her role in Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit
News
peopleHere's what Stephen Fry would say
Sport
David Silva celebrates with Sergio Aguero after equalising against Chelsea
footballChelsea 1 Manchester City 1
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Proust as Captain Laure Berthaud in 'Spiral'
tvReview: Gritty, engaging and well-acted - it’s a wonder France’s biggest TV export isn’t broadcast on a more mainstream channel
Arts and Entertainment
music
Arts and Entertainment
Laura Carmichael in still from Madam Bovary trailer
film
News
i100
Sport
Serena Williams holds the Australian Open title
sportAustralia Open 2015 final report
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links