It’s nearly two months since James McArthur suffered what looked to be a season ending injury. After Palace’s home defeat to Bournemouth in February, news broke that McArthur had torn his ankle ligaments, and by the midfielder’s own admission, it sounded like there was little hope of him playing anytime again soon when he tweeted “looks like season is over for me. Just another challenge in my career to make sure I work hard and come back stronger.”
However, speaking to McArthur this week there is both a metaphorical and physical ‘spring’ in his step as he looks to get back playing sooner than anticipated.
“It’s a slow injury and it’s taken its time to heal but the target is for me to be back in as soon as possible. We’re trying to push it as much as we can but it’s got to be controlled as well. It’s not going to be a case of I’ll be ready to go indefinitely, but I’m doing everything I can to get it better so I can play as soon as possible.”
Having been at Selhurst Park to support his teammates at home games, McArthur says he’s trying to keep positive for the group, but has struggled at times to deal with the upset of not being able to influence things on the pitch.
"As a player it’s the worst feeling in the world not being able to play and participate on a Saturday or Tuesday night to try and help your team, there’s that spot in your life that’s missing when you’re not involved on a matchday. I’m there supporting the boys and cheering them on trying to get a victory and I’ve tried to stay positive but it’s so tough not being able to help on the pitch. You can do as much geeing up and keeping everyone as positive as you can, but when the boys go onto the field it’s all them and it’s hard to influence that."
Days spent in the gym and only be able to spectate at team training sessions has been equally hard to take for the Scotsman, but he’s found Paddy McCarthy and the Palace fitness coaches, as a helpful support network.
“It’s hard at times, I think I’ve dealt with it quite well but this week has been one of those where it’s got to me. When I’m in the gym and looking outside and seeing the boys training and I’m not able to participate, that’s obviously tough. But it’s been good to work with Paddy because he's been through it too and sometimes it'll get to him not being able to play, but we kind of bounce off each other and keep each other’s spirits up and we work through it as a team.”
Although Palace fans haven’t had too much to cheer about of late, the thought of a fully fit McArthur returning to the team will give the whole club a lift, and McArthur believes the players only have to look at the first half of the season to remind themselves of how good they can be.
“Obviously it’s been a disappointing run of results but it’s about trying to stay positive and believe that we’re a good enough team. I think it’s all about that one win and if we get that win it’ll take all the pressure off. The game at West Ham is our next chance to do that, and it will suit us. No one will expect us to go there and win and it’s a great opportunity for us to turn the season around.”