Broken leg victim Alan Smith must now win a gruelling mental battle as he tries to rebuild his Manchester United career, according to Dave Busst.
The 25-year-old England international will not play again this season and could miss the next 12 months after suffering a dislocated ankle as well as a broken leg during United’s 1-0 FA Cup defeat to Liverpool at Anfield.
Former Coventry defender Busst, who suffered a career-ending fracture just 70 seconds into a Premiership match at Old Trafford in 1996, has warned Smith to brace himself for the mental strain he will inevitably face while spending so long out of action.
Now the Sky Blues’ community manager, Busst said: “The most important thing for Alan will be to stay involved at Manchester United.
“For the first couple of weeks there will be people coming to visit him, sending him cards and good wishes, but it’s the period which comes after that - when you’re sitting on your own at home – when you can start to get down and depressed.
“He’s going to have low days.
“All sorts of things will start running through his mind about how much he’s lost and whether he’ll ever get back to playing again.
“That’s why it’s important for Alan to keep going to United, so he’s still about the place and feeling involved.
“But footballers are very tough people mentally and physically and you only have to look at Alan to see he’s got what it takes to come through this.
“He’ll have to set himself some achievable goals to help him on his recovery step by step.
“The important thing is not to set any time limits because if you don’t make the limit then that can have a negative effect on you.
“So the goals need to be small ones and achievable ones – for instance my first goal was to get out of plaster, then to learn to walk again without crutches, then to start jogging and finally to start running.”
Busst, whose right leg was shattered in a goalmouth incident at Old Trafford, was watching the FA Cup tie on television and Smith’s injury brought back unpleasant memories of his own misfortune.
“There were 55,000 people at Old Trafford the day my leg was broken but I can’t remember there being any noise at all,” he recalled.
“Most fans are genuine people and none of them likes to see serious injuries like that but I can’t remember the crowd making a single sound as I was carried off.
“What happens is that you start to freeze, then shock sets in and you fear the worst.
“There’s a real fear factor.
“But the good news for Alan is that the doctors have said his injuries aren’t career-threatening, although he will be out for a long time.
“It’s also a blessing the injuries have stayed inside the skin which means he’s avoided all the complications associated with infections.”