David Flatman: You can have an operation between spa treatments

View from the front row with Bath & England prop
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The Independent Online

Poor old Wayne Rooney. He had to wait until the next morning to find out if his foot was as bad as all the papers predicted. The waiting must have been as agonising as the injury itself. Not me, though. The diva in me broke out and I demanded a scan on the spot. As it turned out, it was already arranged nearby and they were waiting for me. Tantrum abated, I threw on my fur coat, grabbed my clutch bag and wafted up the road to the hospital.

Being the self-centred sportsman I am (Sir Steve Redgrave once said all top athletes need to be selfish, and if he said it...) I could remember nothing about the whole experience but my results. As soon as I heard the magic words “it might not be ruptured,” I was in the car calling my mum. However, in the interests of thoroughness, I was this week sent back for a follow-up scan. Joy. Only this time, I arrived early enough to soak in the surroundings, and wow. This, I thought, must be what it is like to be a footballer.

We have all been to medical institutions and, with the odd exception, they are all pretty similar; unnaturally sterile with squeaky floors and nonsensical signposting. Well, it appears the game has moved on. This place, frankly, was the best hotel I have ever visited. It just so happened that, if you fancied it, you could pop downstairs for a quick knee operation between spa treatments. “A new take on how a hospital should work,” was how one learned-looking gentleman described it. “When can I move in?” was the only question I had left. I ate freshly-made sandwiches and drank espresso (an ill-considered choice before having to lie perfectly still in a small tube for an hour) in the lobby while reading car magazines. The days of leafing through a Bella magazine from August 2008 over a plastic cup of tepid fluid called coffee - but containing nothing of the sort - are over.

All of this was very pleasant but, of course, served only as temporary relief from the torture of being injured. With Bath still desperate to reach the play-offs, every game appears to engulf the team so wholly that to be on the outside is a rather other-worldly experience; one is in the room but one remains absent. This feeling is exacerbated further by the prospect of running out at Twickenham in front of some 50,000 supporters to face the Wasps next weekend. I am sure it will be a great day but if I am not playing you will not find me anywhere near the place.

To play for the club you love on such a stage is, for the Bath boys at least, approaching sporting nirvana. The organisers of these rugby showpieces must see pound signs rolling at the very prospect but, once out on the field, it becomes far more than a mere transaction. One might wonder how on earth a league game can generate such attendances considering the average numbers present at grounds around the country. I think that, simply, the event that is a rugby match at Twickenham combined with cheap tickets make it a brilliant day out. Now all we have to do is supply the rugby.

So motivation during the masochistic sessions reserved especially for the lame and lazy at Bath is not an issue. The image of walking out to that much noise in one's favourite shirt of all is one that burns bright. Visualisation, in those dark times, becomes one's most useful weapon. I will miss that hospital, though. Come to think of it, they were so nice up there, I don't suspect they would mind if I popped in for the odd bit of lunch.