As Ryan Shawcross nervously awaits the reception of the Emirates crowd when Stoke City walk out at Arsenal this afternoon, the player whose leg he broke the last time the teams met back in February, Aaron Ramsey, will be preparing to start his first game since that dreadful injury.
The Wales midfielder, who turns 20 on Boxing Day, suffered a broken tibia and fibula in a challenge with Shawcross at the Britannia Stadium which resulted in the Stoke defender being sent off and left the Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger condemning a "horrendous and unacceptable" tackle.
It has been a long and painful road back for Ramsey who before the injury had just started to win a regular starting place in the Arsenal first-team, winning rave reviews for his goalscoring display in the 4-1 win over Portsmouth at Fratton Park last December. However, three weeks ago on loan deadline day he was sent out to Nottingham Forest in the Championship to build up match fitness after manager Billy Davies contacted Wenger on "a flyer" and today Ramsey is set to make his full Forest debut against Crystal Palace at the City Ground.
"We know what we've got to do with him, professionally we've got to be careful and we're very thankful to Arsène Wenger and Arsenal for loaning him to us," Davies said. "It suits the player to get fit, suits Forest and it suits Arsenal to see the boy getting games."
Speaking after Ramsey came off the bench in Forest's last game, a 1-0 defeat to Leicester which because of two postponements was three weeks ago, Davies could hardly hide his delight at adding the talented playmaker to his underperforming side. "When he came on we started to link back to front, which we didn't do earlier in the game," Davies said. "We know where he's come from and we know the quality that he's got. You could see that within two minutes of him coming on – the calmness, the composure, the ability to pass and link and play."
It is a sentiment echoed by the Forest captain Paul McKenna who is convinced Ramsey will put his injury behind him and go on to fulfil his large potential. "He's a quality player – you're never too old to learn and I've certainly learnt a few things off him," said the 33-year-old midfielder. "You can see why he's got the price tag on him that he has. I spoke to the gaffer about him and we were saying that the things he does are the subtle differences why he's going to be a top player throughout his career."
Ramsey, who started out with Cardiff in the Championship before turning down Manchester United to sign for Arsenal for £5m in 2008, is just delighted to be playing again. "I just couldn't wait to get out on the pitch [against Leicester], I couldn't sleep the night before," he told the Forest website. "I couldn't wait to pull on the jersey again and get out on the pitch.
"It's [the injury] gone now. It's out of my head. I've seen the specialist; the leg is fine and he was happy for me to go back into contact and I didn't have a problem with his word. I even had a few kicks on the leg and it felt good.
"Just to be out there and playing football again made me realise how much the game means to me."Reuse content