Chris Kirkland’s latest injury setback is set to continue a little longer, with West Brom deciding that they won’t rush him back just yet.
Kirkland is on a season-long loan at West Brom, a move he went for in order to get a chance at being in England’s World Cup finals squad. With Pepe Reina signed at Anfield, he wanted to get as much exposure as possible so that Sven Goran Eriksson could get a good look at him. The injury was badly-timed, forcing him to miss out on the squad England’s only friendly until next March, when they played Argentina last Saturday.
The injury is unfortunate, but not one to be taken lightly. Kirkland was hurt in the ribs in a collision but decided to play on. It later transpired that he had also bruised a kidney, and doctors warned him it would be dangerous to do anything other than let it heal. West Brom’s assistant manager Nigel Pearson said that there’s no way they’d risk the player’s wellbeing, and so Tomasz Kuszczak will continue for the time being at least: "It will be another couple of weeks before Chris is back – a knock to the ribs can be serious for goalkeepers because they throw themselves around, even more so when it’s a bruised kidney, which can be quite dangerous."
Chris’s father famously made a bet when his son was younger that one day he’d play for England. He stands to make a tidy sum if it happens, but it now seems to have become a curse. Pearson says that Chris is down about the latest setback: "We are disappointed for Chris because we know how keen he is to make a career for himself as a regular goalkeeper but at the same time it’s vitally important he gets this sorted out because it could potentially be a serious problem. There are no short-cuts for an injury like that."
Kirkland has no guarantees that he’ll walk straight back into the team though: "Tomasz has done very well and that’s what we want – we want competition in the squad. We are still a couple of weeks away and we can’t take Russell Hoult out of the equation either." It’s not just Kirkland that’s looking for a chance to impress for his country says Pearson: "It’s a big year for Tomasz as well because he has personal goals and wants to get back in the international set-up so that’s good for us. Tomasz certainly has the qualities to play at that level – if you can do it in the Premiership then you can definitely do it in international level and he’s still young and still improving."
Kirkland has earned a reputation for being injury prone, but all of his injuries have been unconnected, and more often than not have come from literally throwing his body on the line for the sake of his team. Pearson says that Kirkland will soon be able to shake this reputation off though: "This injury was was frustrating for Chris because he is keen to put this tag behind him. When you look at the injuries he has suffered they have been fairly serious ones but since he’s been with us he’s had no problems apart from this. It’s something Chris will have to be patient with and the only way to stop people from talking about it is to be playing week in week out and I’m sure he will. He’s back in the England set-up so he has short-term and long-term goals. People do ask questions and the only way to stop people asking them is to have a run in the side."