Yedlin looking to put groin injury behind him as he returns to training
Written by Dan King
DeAndre Yedlin is back in full training - and admits that he's looking forward to the prospect of playing without pain for the first time in well over a year when he returns to Premier League action.
The USA international made 28 starts and one substitute appearance in the top flight last season, before missing the final two matches to undergo surgery in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in May to repair a groin injury which had hampered him throughout the entire campaign.
"For nearly 18 months leading up to (the operation), I was having off-and-on pain in my pelvic region, and it got to the point where it became kind of tough to play," Yedlin explained to nufc.co.uk after a rigorous training session at the Magpies' Benton base.
"I got an MRI on it and basically the conclusion was that I needed sports hernia surgery, a bit different to groin repair. The recovery for it was meant to be quicker than it was - there's been some scar tissue issues and things like that, so it's been a bit frustrating, especially with the new head coach coming in; you're obviously trying to prove yourself but I wasn't really with the team the whole pre-season.
"Now, I'm getting closer and closer. It's just about going out and proving every day what I can do in training, and hopefully getting an opportunity in the games."
Yedlin has been one of the first names on the Newcastle United team sheet ever since arriving from Tottenham Hotspur in August 2016, and has racked up 95 appearances in three years.
But at times last season, the 26-year-old - whose pace and athleticism is such a key part of his game - found it hard to show his best form due to the physical and mental effects of the nagging injury.
He admitted: "It was tough, and it was a bit confusing because it would come and go. There would be months that I'd be playing with it and I'd take pain killers before the game and try to get through it, then there'd be times when it didn't bother me at all.
"There'd even be times in the warm up... usually when I go out, I pass with Matt Ritchie. He's all over the place from the very start so there'd be times when he'd be buzzing all over the place and want to hit long balls from the start and I'd just have to do a lot of balls on the ground to start with and just really get it warmed up.
"Even in warm ups, I'd be thinking 'it's going to be tough to make it through this game.' Once the pain killers hit in, you can't really feel anything anymore and then adrenalin hits in but, yeah, it's tough. As a player you don't want to stop and then lose your place, but you've also got to do what's best for you and for the longevity of your career.
"At the end of last season, when we secured safety, I decided it was worth getting it looked at. I'm not young young anymore but I still have, hopefully, some years ahead of me and I just wanted to get everything sorted and hopefully now I can just look forward and won't have issues, at least with that part of the body, any more.
"Like I said, it got to the point where the pain just got too much and it was hard to handle so I sat down with (the club's medical staff) and they were great about it. They said 'what do you want to do?'. I went to see a couple of different surgeons and they gave me the option of where I wanted to go and things like that, so that was good from them.
"I think it's important that you feel comfortable, especially when you're getting surgery and going through rehab and things like that, so I give credit to everyone who's been involved in the whole process."
Yedlin was operated on by Dr. William Meyers and worked with the club's physios before returning to full training towards the end of last month.
"It's been a long and frustrating process, obviously for me but also for the people involved, because they want to see me get back as well, and do well," said Yedlin.
"So it's credit to everyone involved who's been working with me. It's been a longer recovery than I expected but I'd rather have four months out than play with the pain and potentially have an even worse injury where you're going to be out for even longer. Looking at it in the long run, I think it was a good idea and choice to get the surgery."
Now Yedlin is hoping to push for a place in Steve Bruce's starting XI over the last few weeks, but he knows he still has a job on his hands to overtake Emil Krafth and Javier Manquillo in the pecking order.
"My objective now is to get back to 100 per cent and get to the point where I'm batting for a place on the field," he said. "The guys on the right side, Javier and Emil, have done great and the team have got some good results, so it's not like I'm going to just step right back in.
"I'm going to have to battle for that, but that's the competition of the team and that's what makes the team better. I'm excited and I'm ready to do that.
"Things are good. There's still a few things I'm a bit apprehensive with - crossing is one of the things that, at least before, irritated it. At the beginning of August, I came back and thought it was fine, got into training, hit a cross and bang, it flared up again. But it's just about getting that trust back with your body and trusting yourself to be able to do those things.
"I'll be doing groin strength in the gym, and adductor strength, and then putting myself in game situations; there'll be times when you have to cross off balance, swinging the ball across, hitting long balls, shooting, things like that. How do I react to that, and if I do react, how quick does it calm down?
"But being back out in training again with the boys is great. It's not fun, training by yourself for two months, but being out with the guys again is great, getting used to the speed of play and just getting back on the ball. It's been a good two-and-a-half weeks and it's been great getting to work with the new head coach and new staff."
Yedlin has also missed some big games for his country over the summer - the USA reached the final of the CONCACAF Gold Cup, where they lost 1-0 to Mexico, in June, and he admitted: "That's been tough.
"I've had contact with the manager and they're keeping updated on how I'm doing. This last international break was just a bit too soon but hopefully the next one, I'll be ready for and hopefully I'll have some minutes under my belt by that time, then really crack on from there."
"Even in warm ups, I'd be thinking 'it's going to be tough to make it through this game.' As a player you don't want to stop and then lose your place, but you've also got to do what's best for you and for the longevity of your career."