Bobby Zamora: 'The return from injury is tough. I miss everything'

Bobby Zamora was in the form of his life, and England's plans, before Karl Henry's tackle. He tells Glenn Moore how that feels

When a footballer suffers a serious injury the agony is captured by the cameras.

In the current climate a public debate then ensues as to whether the tackle was, in football parlance, "hard but fair". Was it "one of those things", or a "bit naughty?" Then the attention moves on to the next injury, or some new issue. The player cannot move on. He has to undertake the long haul of recuperation. He becomes semi-detached from his team, no longer a real part of their highs and lows, their wins and losses, even the daily banter. Instead the club physio becomes his new best friend and the gym his second home.

That is the place Bobby Zamora is in. This should be his time. With Jermain Defoe injured, the way would be clear for Zamora to reprise the impressive line-leading performance of his England debut against Hungary in August. He should be on the training field, under the watchful gaze of Fabio Capello, preparing to face Montenegro on Tuesday.

Instead the 29-year-old is holed up in a small room in a London hotel, paying his dues to his kit providers, Under Armour (there's irony). He talks glowingly of the American company's football boots, which he helped design, but a glance at his feet reveals it will be a while before he pulls them on again. His right foot is encased in a boot of a different kind, a calf boot with more protective padding around it than an NFL linebacker. Alongside lie a set of crutches.

Zamora is four weeks into what will be a lengthy rehabilitation after a tackle by Wolves' Karl Henry broke his leg and damaged ankle ligaments. The only bit of Under Armour gear he will need before Christmas is the recovery suit. He does not expect to be playing in the first team again until late February at best. Meanwhile Capello tried to lure Emile Heskey out of retirement, before calling up Kevin Davies, and at Fulham the new manager Mark Hughes is forced to work on developing a team without his centre-forward.

"I'm starting to get bored now," admits Zamora. "It's becoming a bit frustrating. I miss kicking the ball with the boys in training, I miss it all, all the day-to-day stuff. Returning from injury is long, hard, boring and depressing.

"You have to set goals and push on from each one. I have another five weeks with the boot [which keeps the foot in a fixed position] on, but in three weeks I will be allowed to walk on it. Once it's off I'll be able to do some bike work, then I'll absolutely batter the gym, so I can come back and give those defenders a hard time."

The gym work will be much-needed. "My calf muscles have pretty much gone already and the thigh is starting to go a bit," he says. "But injuries are part and parcel of football."

They are, but there is a growing feeling that in the English game too many are caused by unnecessarily violent tackles. Zamora's strike partner, Moussa Dembele, is currently out after suffering what was widely regarded as a needless and reckless tackle by Stoke's Andy Wilkinson. The man who injured Zamora, the Wolves captain Henry, is himself in the spotlight after being dismissed for a wild lunge at Wigan's Jordi Gomez last week.

"He did do a silly one the other day," reflects Zamora, "but did he mean to hurt me? I don't know. I can't see that anybody goes out to injure people really, I wouldn't like to think they do. And I've ridden worse tackles in the past."

Although Henry indicated after the match that some Fulham players had accused him of attempting to "do" Zamora, no foul was given and Hughes, who was outraged at Wilkinson's tackle on Dembele, was sanguine about the incident. "It's a shame but I don't really lay the blame on [Henry]. It's one of those," said Hughes. "There's always a danger if you get tackled from the side, or from behind: players' legs can get trapped. I don't think there was any intent to hurt Bobby."

Since Zamora and Henry share an agent, and have known each other from their England Under-21 days, it would hurt mentally as well as physically were Zamora to believe it was deliberate. The long lonely months of rehab are difficult enough without having to deal with a sense of bitterness. Clearly Zamora would prefer to think it was an accident, and in this case it seems it was, though whether Henry's approach to tackling raises the risk of serious injury is a moot point.

Zamora prefers to look forward, not least to when he can become a help, rather than a hindrance, around the house. He became the father of twin girls, Giselle and Sienna, two months ago but, he says: "It's a nightmare round the house, I can't even get up and carry them across the room. It is like there are three babies to deal with."

If the timing was bad domestically it was even worse professionally. It is not just that Zamora had broken into the England team, and was under new management at club level, he also spent most of the summer in rehab after an operation to fix a long-standing Achilles problem. After carrying the injury for the second half of last season Zamora chose surgery ahead of a place in England's World Cup squad.

"There was no point in going," he says. "I couldn't train. I hadn't been training at all. It just got worse. I probably shouldn't have played in the Europa Cup matches in Hamburg [the final and semi-final], but I was desperate to play."

Zamora, so impressive as Fulham put Shakhtar Donetsk, Wolfsburg and, especially, Juventus to the sword, was quiet in those games and he realised going to South Africa would be an error.

He says: "Not training, but maybe being asked to play, I wasn't going to do myself, the team, the country, justice. Of course it is a chance to go to the World Cup and in the back of your mind you think that chance may never come again, but I didn't want to go and let myself down."

After a summer of rehab he began this season in the sort of form which suggested it was the right decision, scoring and making goals. "It was the first time I'd been fully fit since last year and I was doing alright. I'd worked hard in the summer. Now I'll have to work hard again and come back stronger."

If Zamora seems remarkably matter-of-fact about his misfortune it is partly because his path to the top has helped him stay grounded. He was in the famed East End boys' club, Senrab, along with John Terry and Ledley King, and was taken on by West Ham. But he was released without playing a game and pitched up at Bristol Rovers, where he encountered Ian Holloway. It was not, however, until he enjoyed a successful loan spell at non-League Bath City that his career began to turn around with the goals continuing to flow after he joined Brighton.

"They were some of the best years, I absolutely loved it," he says. "The same with the apprenticeship at Rovers, that stood me in good stead. Youth players now don't have to do anything, they don't know they are born, it's all done for them. I was cleaning showers, toilets, washing kits, whatever. It was part of football then and it was character building."

Brighton led to England Under-21 recognition and a £1.5m transfer to Tottenham, but after managing a solitary goal he was traded to West Ham as part of the deal which took Defoe to Spurs. At West Ham he was intermittently successful but it was only last year, at Fulham, that he scored heavily again, his 19 goals being his best since leaving Brighton.

He puts the improvement down to playing in a more advanced role, rather than the confidence engendered by scoring goals, but Opta stats reveal his shooting accuracy increased dramatically which suggests the latter was a significant factor.

Now he has to regain fitness and confidence in his body and ability all over again. It will help that the club, and new manager, have faith in him. He signed a new four-year contract – lengthy given his age – the day before his injury. In the meantime it is back to rehab, and maybe, if he gets really bored, watching the DVD Hughes has promised to give him showing all the manager's volleyed goals. "He says it's eight hours long," said Zamora. Now there's an incentive to get in the gym.

Zamora on his mentors: Roy Hodgson and Ian Holloway

Zamora followed Blackpool's victory at Anfield last week with more interest than most. Roy Hodgson brought him to Fulham two years ago in a £4m deal, and oversaw his rejuvenation before moving to Liverpool in the summer. Blackpool's Ian Holloway gave him his League debut, at Bristol Rovers.

"Roy Hodgson was good for me, and good for the team, and I was obviously disappointed when he left Fulham, but I can't blame him. Liverpool are one of the big clubs in the world. The criticism he is getting is ridiculous. It is far too early for that, especially as he has been unlucky with injuries. Any sane person knows Liverpool will not be down there at the end of the season.

"He does have his own way of playing, and it takes a while for everyone to pick it up and know where they need to be, but I am sure when they do Liverpool will be even harder to beat than they were before.

"We played Blackpool earlier in the season and we probably should have won. They play risky football. It is attacking football but they are quite open at the back. In most matches they will either do alright, or they will get hammered. It is the way they play, they go at people and they will pick up a few wins. Their players will relish going to stadiums like Anfield and playing the best players in the world. So will Holloway. He was a real character."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
health
News
science
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
News
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
people
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
News
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Sport
football
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
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

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power