Back To Business: Dummett hoping to play his part in final fixtures
Written by Dan King
Paul Dummett is hoping to be available for Newcastle United's Premier League and FA Cup run-in - having originally been ruled out for the season after suffering a significant hamstring injury at the beginning of 2020.
The long-serving left-back was not named in the the Magpies' 25-man squad for the second half of the campaign when it was submitted in February, because he would not have sufficiently recovered in time to feature. But, with the season suspended since March and now set to resume later this month, Dummett is fit again and hoping for an opportunity to play his part in United's final fixtures.
That would be dependant on the Premier League allowing changes to squads - stakeholders are due to discuss the matter over the next few days - but for Dummett and Newcastle, it could be a silver lining amidst the coronavirus pandemic.
"Obviously it's been a strange time for everyone in the whole world, going through something that our parents and grandparents have never seen in their lives since the war, so it has been tough for everyone, but it looks like we're starting to come out the other end now," Dummett told nufc.co.uk. "Things are starting to get a little easier, things are starting to open and obviously we're back training now as well, so it feels like it's starting to get back to a bit of normality when you're seeing the lads every day and training.
"Hopefully we keep seeing the figures going down, because thousands of people have died and far too many lives have been lost.
"My thoughts go out to everyone around the world who has lost family and loved ones; the North East in particular has had a high death and infection rate, and a lot of fans and families of Newcastle fans will have suffered, so our thoughts go out to them.
"It's been a tough time for the whole world but for me the only positive that has come from it is that it has given me time to get back fit.
"I had to do a lot of rehab and running on my own, essentially; it is tough doing all the running yourself, you can't get the treatment that you would normally get, but with the world the way it has been, the least of everyone's worries is someone like me trying to get recovery and rehab. So I made the most of everything and kept myself motivated with the hope that the rules will be changed, because I'm fit and raring to go."
Dummett, who played 17 times for Steve Bruce before injury struck, limped off during United's 1-1 draw at Wolves in January, and his rehabilitation, which began at the training ground, was quickly interrupted by the coronavirus outbreak. When the Magpies' Benton base was shut down in March, he started running in Jesmond Dene and swimming at a local health club, but when lockdown was implemented, he had to work on his own at home, setting up a gym in his garden with equipment borrowed from the club.
"It's been about 20 weeks since I got injured, so it has been a long time," he explained. "I've done everything I could in terms of equipment that I had at home, with strength work that I had to do for the hamstring and all the running sessions I was getting sent over from the physios.
"I kept on top of those - five running sessions and three gym sessions a week - so I did everything I could to make sure that when training did restart, I was ready to go and I feel really good. I joined in an 11 v 11 game the other day - it was only a 45-minute game but I felt totally fine, and I've spoken to the manager about the squad situation as well. He's hopeful, and the club are hopeful, that the rules will be relaxed and changed. Whether we can add extra players to the 25-man squad or resubmit the 25-man squad, we'll have to see what happens, but hopefully the Premier League will change the rules because there's obviously a lot of factors where that would be beneficial."
One of those factors - and one which has also led to calls for an increase in the number of substitutions allowed in matches - is the potential for fatigue and muscle injuries caused by the relatively short time teams will have to prepare ahead of the Premier League's proposed restart in just over three weeks' time.
"People don't see how physical the Premier League is, and how much running the players on the pitch do," insisted Dummett. "A few of my friends have said to me 'why can't you play earlier than June 20th?', and I've said 'you don't understand how physical the Premier League actually is.' Even when you're off for the six weeks (in the summer), you have two or three weeks before you go back to pre-season, then five or six weeks of pre-season where you play five games, and even when you come to the first or second game of the Premier League season, no team is probably at their absolute peak physical condition.
"I think no matter how many training sessions or friendlies you do, there's nothing like a Premier League game because there's much more on the line than there is in a friendly, so I think in the first or second game, you probably will see a lot of fatigued players. I read an article the other day about more injures in the German leagues (since Bundesliga and 2. Bundesliga restarted last month) so I think the Premier League have to look at those sort of stats you can see from other leagues, and do the right thing."
United have nine more games in the Premier League, where they are currently in 13th position, having won their last match before the campaign was suspended.
Dummett said: "We got ourselves in a decent position - I think that win against Southampton, looking back now, was crucial for us because we're nearly safe - not totally, but we're in a good position to try and finish the season off strongly. With 35 points, it gives us a good base to try and finish it off."
The Magpies also have an Emirates FA Cup quarter-final against holders Manchester City to look forward to, and the dream of reaching a first Wembley final in more than 20 years is still alive for Newcastle and for lifelong supporter Dummett.
"I'm a Newcastle fan, was born here, have lived here my whole life," he said. "The club haven't had a run like this in a long, long time so hopefully I can be involved in that. We all know we've got a tough game against one of the best teams in the league, so we have to be ready for that, but it's an exciting time being involved in a game in the quarter-finals, so hopefully we can progress from that.
"I've said to a few people, it's typical Newcastle; we've not been this far in the competition for a long time and imagine if we got to the semi-final or the final and we've got no fans there!
"The fans are a massive part of sport and especially football, and for Newcastle, in our area everyone lives and breathes football, so it won't be too great without the fans there, but the safety of everyone is the most important thing and hopefully we can put in performances that the fans can watch on TV, and they can celebrate at home when we score the goals.
"I've watched games on TV before and you still celebrate like you do in the stadium, so hopefully we can still put on a show for the fans, and they can enjoy the games that we've got remaining."
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"With the world the way it has been, the least of everyone's worries is someone like me trying to get recovery and rehab. So I made the most of everything and kept myself motivated with the hope that the rules will be changed, because I'm fit and raring to go."