HIBS star Gary Deegan today revealed how some tender loving care from the women in his life helped nurse him back to full health after suffering a broken jaw which put him out of action for more than two months.
While his wife Grace provided the nourishment to sustain him as he could only consume liquidised soup for almost five weeks, resulting in him losing a stone in weight, Mum Carol ensured he didn’t get too down by sending him a poem urging him not to give up in his fitness battle.
The 25-year-old suffered the injury in an early-morning incident outside a city centre nightspot only hours after Hibs had gone top of the SPL table with a 3-0 win over Dundee. Two operations were required to repair his jaw with Deegan ruled out of any form of training for six weeks.
But now the former Coventry City ace is “ready to go” and hoping to be involved in some way in today’s clash with Motherwell as he puts the events of the recent past behind him to again concentrate on helping Pat Fenlon’s side maintain their place at the top end of the League table.
He said: “I’ve recovered, I’m fit, but it’s been frustrating. I’ve dealt with injuries before, injuries that have kept me out for a long time but this has been the most frustrating because it’s not footblall-related.”
Deegan has been back training for the past three weeks, building up his strength again but, he admitted, he was left feeling “low” as he endured his enforced period of inactivity.
He said: “I’ve dealt with long periods out spending time on your own, so I knew what to expect in a way. I was low because someone was trying to take away what I love doing. I love coming in every day, competing and playing football. That is my dream, to be playing football every day.”
Deegan was even banned from walking his dogs, Molly and Paddy, a precautionary measure in case he slipped and caused further damage while, with his mouth shut, he was confined to supping Grace’s home-made soup.
“Even dealing with that was infuriating,” he said. “I just ate soup for four or five weeks. It was all homemade, definitely. I demanded that it wasn’t out of a tin or a box. My favourite was butternut squash, the worst was something with broccoli in it. If I never see another bowl of broccoli soup, it’ll be too soon.
“I lost quite a bit, a stone, which I’m just starting to put back on now.
“My wife is glad to see me back (at training). I can be very demanding and bossy when I’m at home so I would say it’s taken a toll on her.”
Deegan’s morale, understandably, fell but his spirits were lifted by his Mum. He said: “When you are not eating and not doing things, your whole system sort of shuts down. You feel down, you don’t want to do anything, just sit around. I spent a lot of hours wasted, just sitting there watching rubbish on the television.
“To be honest, the thing that got me round was my mother sent me a little ‘don’t quit’ card. It’s just a little poem that explains why you should never give up. That’s stuck with me and I have it in my car now. It’s something I’ll always have, something to say I’ve come this far, I’m not going to quit now.
“I speak to my Ma all the time and a mother can always tell her son’s not right, so she sent me this to cheer me up. It was a really nice thing to do. Ssomething like that from your mother really lifts your spirits, I didn’t expect it.
“She also came over for a bit, saw how I was getting on. She wanted to see my face and see what it was like.”
Deegan also received much-welcomed support from Easter Road. He said: “The manager has been great, he’s dropped around a few times to see me because I wouldn’t even answer my phone to him. I didn’t want any contact early on, but he’s been really good, really encouraging, told me not to rush and get everything done.
“When it happened all the boys were in touch, even just sending text messages. Eoin Doyle has been driving me back and forward to the hospital because I’ve not been able to drive. Whenever I’ve asked him, he’s been there.”
While Pat Fenlon has previously admitted feeling some personal culpability for Deegan’s injury, having persuaded him to come to Edinburgh, Deegan insisted the experience hasn’t put him off Scotland. He said: “Never. It could happen to anyone. That’s the way I have to look at it.”
However, the one thing that did ease Deegan’s pain was knowing Fenlon’s side was winning more often than not. He said: “It was easier because you want to see the boys doing well.
“There are key players out at the moment, our captain James McPake as well as Tim Clancy, so it takes the pressure off that the team have got some good results, but it was really frustrating being at the derby, sitting there in a ridiculous atmosphere. I experienced it in my debut, a fantastic atmosphere, and I would love to do it again. There’s another one coming up just around the corner, so hopefully I’ll be ready for that.”
In the meantime, Deegan insisted Hibs fans shouldn’t expect too much too soon from him. He said: “It’s been more than nine weeks now. Anyone out for that time is going to take a bit of time to get back into the rhythm of things, never mind just getting match fit.
“You shouldn’t expect too much because I need to play my way back into the team, then take my chance if selected.”