Bradford City: We’re all members of the Luke Oliver fan club, says Davies (From Bradford Telegraph and Argus)
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Bradford City: We’re all members of the Luke Oliver fan club, says Andrew Davies
Luke Oliver’s return to arms means as much to his City team-mates as the gentle giant himself.
Oliver stepped back in to Saturday’s winning side after Rory McArdle fell ill the night before the game.
It was the big man’s second appearance since missing nearly a year of action after snapping his cruciate ligament.
Despite his own frustration, Oliver was always a regular figure in the celebrations last season. That is something that the rest of the squad haven’t forgotten as he steps back into the fray.
Andrew Davies, his central defensive partner, said: “Olly is very well respected in the group. You can’t knock him.
“Everyone is so pleased to see him playing again because he’s held in such high esteem. The club enjoyed a lot of success last year and all the players were getting praised. But Luke Oliver was forgotten.
“Having had injuries myself, that’s the hardest part when you’re not involved.
“With all the praise going round, you forget that he started that season and had been playing really well.
“He’d started the run of the cup games. Just before that, he’d swept the board at the player of the year awards.
“That’s why the lads appreciated that he was in the changing room before and after games. I can imagine it would have been very easy for him to not bother, feeling it was nothing to do with him.
“But he wanted to be a part of it and that says a lot about him as a person.
“Everyone says if you work hard you get rewards and coming back like he has done is what Luke deserves.”
Davies spent the first four months of Oliver’s lengthy absence as his gym buddy after both defenders got crocked in the same game at Burton. He has also cajoled his pal along to keep the spirits up.
He can appreciate just how hard Oliver has had to battle to get back to a position where he is contending for a starting jersey once more.
Davies added: “When you’re in the gym with him every day, you see exactly what he’s like. You’ve got to remember when you’re injured, you are in a lot earlier than the lads and leaving a lot later.
“As a person, he’s someone I’ve got a lot of respect for. He doesn’t shout but just goes about his business, he’s such an honest lad on and off the football pitch.
“It’s really tough but you’ve got to always stay positive. I had a lot of long chats with Luke about it.
“Pain’s only temporary, it will always end up going away. Don’t be thinking, my life in football is over because I’m injured.
“Somehow you have to get over it and Luke has done that. He’s now getting the rewards.”
McArdle’s late withdrawal on Saturday morning meant another rare change to the City team sheet.
The settled side has been a factor in their impressive start to League One and Davies feels that is certainly the case for the defence.
“The manager has got a back four who have played together a lot,” he said.
“Even when Luke comes back in, he’s played a lot with Darbs (right back Stephen Darby) and with me. So it doesn’t disrupt anything.
“We’ve got five or six defenders who’ve all played a lot together and know each other’s game. We also know what we’ve got to improve on.
“When I was growing up at Middlesbrough, I was always in and out because there were obviously a lot of big names.
“It is unsettling because you are always wondering about the other centre half and thinking things like ‘does he like me going this way or should I be doing that?’
“So instead of just concentrating on your game, you are constantly asking yourself ‘should I push on or drop off, does he want me to go and head it or stay back?’
“You don’t want to let anyone down but it is a distraction.
“It’s important you get that settled feeling that comes with playing together.”
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