11 Nov 2019 in Interviews
“There were mixed emotions” admits James Baillie.
343 days since he suffered a horrific leg break against Southport, Baillie was back on the pitch in a Curzon Ashton strip as they were knocked out of the Manchester Premier Cup by Wythenshawe Town.
“After 11 and a half months out, I was buzzing to be back in the team, but then the game itself just didn’t go to plan,” he admitted. “It was strange to be out there because I was so excited, but the match and atmosphere was really flat and we ended up losing when we really shouldn’t have.”
The incident early in the game at The Pure Stadium on October 30th last year was an innocuous one and can only be described as a “freak accident” according to Baillie.
“I went to block a cross and my foot got caught in the ground,” he said. “The way the bone fractured, diagonally, made it even worse meaning I needed to have a metal plate with bolts and screws put into my leg which may be there for life now.”
Baillie’s journey back from there has been a long and arduous one. There have been regular sessions with physios and specialists and just as it looked like he was recovering in time for pre-season, a separate problem emerged.
“I had another setback in May then when my ankle came out of place. I was just getting back to the running stage when it was discovered that, because of the injury, a bone had calcified in my ankle so that needed another operation. I got that taken care of privately because I just wanted to get back as soon as possible”
Unfortunately, though, that meant another few months out: “the most frustrating part was not being able to take part in pre-season,” Baille said.
“I was in and out of training because of the ankle and leg. When you come back for a new season you’re always buzzing and with all the new players I wanted to get in and integrate with my new teammates and coaches so it was frustrating that I couldn’t take full part.”
Key in his long battle back was the support of manager Mark Bradshaw, whose trust in Baillie was evident in the fact that he ensured the full back was given another deal for the new season. Despite other offers on the table, it was important for Baillie to repay that faith.
“I get on well with Mark as a coach and he was really good with me at the time of the injury and all the way through. He just told me to get back fit and that I was still going to be in his plans.
“There were some other options, but the loyalty Mark showed me was something I wanted to repay and I gave him my word that as long as he wanted me I would be coming back. I’ve been really happy at Curzon and after the injury I wanted to come back and prove a point.”
Before making his return to Curzon’s first team this month, Baillie had two profitable fitness building loan spells with Abbey Hey and Mossley – where he also found himself amongst the goals.
“Even though it was at a lower standard, it was a nice moment to get back out there playing. It was a bit of a relief because I’d been back running on it for a few weeks, but I wasn’t sure I was ready for a proper game. When the Abbey Hey loan came up, I just thought ‘why not’ and it ended up going well.
“I scored twice in four games at Abbey Hey and then scored on my debut at Mossley too. I was playing in a more attacking role there and getting forward has always been my forte. Playing in midfield out on loan was good but I’m more than happy playing at full back or wherever the gaffer wants me.”
Despite starting the Nash’s last two games, Baillie admits the road to recovery is not yet over and and he still attends regular physio sessions: “it’s still sore at times and it’s definitely not perfect,” he said.
“The physios at Curzon have been really good and I’ve been seeing another physio who worked with the first team at Liverpool who has been a big help. It’s something that takes a long time to fully recover from, but only playing games on Saturday’s is helping. That gives me a full week then to get ready for the next one. The more games and more confidence I get back hopefully it’ll start feeling better because there is part of it that’s in your head as well.”
Baillie is now one of the longest serving and more experienced players in the squad – despite having only signed from Crewe Alexandra in 2016. He is the only player that started the FA Cup 2nd round tie against Wimbledon in 2016 to still be at the club and he is hoping to make that experience count as the season goes on.
“We’ve got a pretty young squad and it can be quiet in the dressing room so I want to take it on myself to be more of a leader and get the team going. Hopefully I can act by example on the pitch as well.
“Personally, though, I just want to get back fully fit and playing regularly again.”
Written by Sam Hendry