JOHN KRETLOW - Friday, December 16, 2011
After missing the majority of the Premier League season recovering from a hamstring injury, Zak Whitbread returned last week in Norwich City's win over Newcastle United.
The center back played 82 minutes to the delight of Norwich City and US national team fans alike. He addressed his hamstring, recovery, and frustrations regarding his injury to YA.
"The hamstring is fine. It was against Chelsea. It took long (recovery) because I just didn't want anything to happen again. We did everything right. We took the right amount of time to get back fit.
Injuries have plagued Whitbread throughout his career. But the former Liverpool player felt this recovery was particularly more difficult.
"You have a new challenge and you want to be involved in it from the start. So it is frustrating. You can't change what's happened. But just getting there, putting my head down, working hard to make sure I got the best chance of getting back involved. Things are better now.
Norwich City was promoted to the Premier League with the help of Whitbread's play last season in the Championship. They are 10th in the standings thus far this season.
The 27 year old is looking to the future now rather than the past. Whitbread has many goals in mind for the year to come, including just getting his fitness up to par.
"To play 90 minutes. That's the first thing in my list," Whitbread told YA.
The former Millwall player also is aiming to solidify his spot in Norwich's lineup.
"There are many center backs fighting for a few spots. At the end of the day its up to the gaffer to decide who he thinks is right for certain games. I just have to work hard, stay fit, and stay strong.
Most of all though, Whitbread is hoping for Norwich City success.
"The aim is to stay in the league first and foremost.
Whitbread has not played for the US senior national team yet, but has suited up for the red, white, and blue before at the U-20 level. The defender has been called into particular camps in 2010 and earlier this year, but injuries derailed his debut.
The national team now is in the Jurgen Klinsmann era and Whitbread would definitely welcome a call up. But, the defender knows sustained play is what will catch eyes.
"Nothing has been spoken about. Last contact was last year with Bob Bradley before the Gold Cup. I'm just focused on Norwich and getting fit and back playing. That's my first priority. Anything after that would be a bonus. I need to play a run of games first.
American fans should feel excited though, as Whitbread eyes his shot at the national team.
"First thing is to play well with my club and play a run of games, beyond that I don't have control of what goes on with US team, but if I was called upon I would jump at the chance. I've always said I would.
Whitbread and the Canaries travel to Goodison Park to take on Tim Howard and Everton this weekend.