Wayne's world of walking wounded

Derek Pringle talks to the newcomer charged with easing tour aches and strains
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The Independent Online
WAYNE MORTON is an optimistic man, though he has little right to be. Following the retirement of the England physiotherapist, Dave Roberts, Morton is the latest appointee to what - if their last two injury- hit tours are anything to go by - is now one of the most demanding jobs in sport.

These days looking after England's aches and pains requires a great deal more than the wet sponge and rub-a-dub response of old, but if the job has become increasingly unglamorous and hectic, Morton, 34, embraces it wholeheartedly. He is well qualified, too, and apart from overseeing England A's last three tours, he has been wanting to fix things for as long as he can remember, first as a mechanic and later as a physio.

With England's bowlers perenially accused of being old crocks, he has the perfect background, though once the tour miles begin to mount, knocking a few thousand off Angus Fraser's clock will test all his old skills. To no one's surprise, he expects to be kept busy early on, not least because Devon Malcolm has just had a knee operation and Alec Stewart has yet to test his troublesome finger since rebreaking it during the infamous Edgbaston Test.

"If you take this winter's tour and the World Cup in India and Pakistan together, it'll be the same length as my average domestic season with Yorkshire. I just hope I won't be treating the same amount of injuries. That would be a disaster," he said, diplomatically failing to mention how many had been caused by barbs from the committee room.

Born and bred in Stalybridge, he has worked full-time for Yorkshire for almost a decade, having started there in 1986 after qualifying from Leeds medical school in 1982. Unlike his predecessor, Dave Roberts, who left Worcestershire to concentrate on his England duties, Morton is only on a winter contract and won't be giving up the summer job at Headingley, where he has worked closely with Darren Gough to sort out the fast bowler's foot problems, still a source of concern for both county and country.

Morton, however, is confident the worst will soon be behind him. "At the start of the season, when Goughie came back from the initial injury, he over-compensated by landing on the outside of his foot. This just placed the stress elsewhere. But once we sort the technicalities out, the discomfort should stop."

For the first time since the 1987 World Cup, England will be travelling with their own doctor. It is a move that is welcomed by Morton, particularly after last winter's series of misdiagnosed illness and injuries, including the high farce of Joey Benjamin's three-week quarantine for chickenpox and shingles that turned out to be a heat rash.

"These days we're expected to cover all areas of medicine on tour and a physio will often have to carry drugs which aren't in his domain. So to have Dr Phillip Bell with us will be a great help. With two of us around, we won't be short-handed should one of us have to leave the ground to take a player for X-rays." But although the load may be lightened, some jobs just aren't meant to be shared, and Morton, himself a keen exerciser, will be in charge of the squad's fitness, which he will at first work on at altitude.

Taking training is by no means Morton's sole extra-curricular talent. During a particularly dull and alcoholically challenged function on last winter's A tour of India, he decided to enliven proceedings by upstaging the sitar players and singing some Billy Bragg songs. It prompted a mass walk-out, including most of the England team. If he can get this winter's walking wounded on their feet half as quickly, he is certain to be an instant hit.