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Veerman delighted to be back

The 2018 football year ended on a low note for Henk Veerman when he suffered a serious knee injury in the 4-1 home win over Magdeburg three days before Christmas that kept him out of action for ten long months. A year ago to the day, the Dutch striker was undergoing surgery, but now he's fighting fit again and looking forward to a mini-break on Gran Canaria.

Thirty minutes had been played that day when Henk Veerman shaped to shoot from distance, only for Magdeburg striker Christian Beck to poke the ball off his toe at the last moment. Instead of striking the ball, Veerman hit Beck's leg full on, leaving him writhing on the ground in pain. The striker tried in vain to continue, but eventually hobbled off. After the game he was taken to hospital, where he received the devastating news that he had torn cruciate and lateral collateral ligaments in his right knee. The Dutchman, to that point the club's most prolific player with six goals and five assists, later underwent surgery at the University Medical Center in Eppendorf (UKE) on Boxing Day.

Henk Veerman makes his way off the pitch, accompanied by club doctor Sebastian Schneider and physiotherapist Mike Muretic.

Henk Veerman makes his way off the pitch, accompanied by club doctor Sebastian Schneider and physiotherapist Mike Muretic.

"It was the first serious injury of my career," the 6'6" (2.01 metres), technically adept striker said, looking back. "I knew very quickly I'd be out a long time, which was really tough for me mentally. Not being able to help the team in the second half of the season when we were going so well was a disaster." The first few months of rehab, which began at the ENDO Rehab Centre just after the turn of the year and continued at the training centre of the Dutch national team in Utrecht, were particularly difficult. Not until he was able to start doing light work with the ball in April did his mood improve.

"Things progressed week by week after that and I was able to gradually step up the workload," Veerman continued. "The knee caused me no problems and didn't swell. Everything went according to plan, mainly because we were careful not to do overdo it." The Dutchman eased his way back into training as the first half of the new season wore on and finally returned to action in the friendly against Werder Bremen in October after a ten-month absence.

Two brief appearances for the Under-23s against Karlsruhe and Bochum followed before Veerman made his first start at Aue in mid-November and immediately made his mark by getting on the scoresheet. "Every goal gives you a great feeling – especially after such a long layoff," he said. It was not enough to prevent the Boys in Brown from slipping to a 3-1 defeat, however. Jos Luhukay handed the striker further starts in the defeats against Hannover and Regensburg. "I missed a number of changes at Regensburg," a disappointed Veerman said afterwards. "I think I was more effective in front of goal before my injury, but after ten months out that's normal."

Henk Veerman scores his first league goal in 11 months on his return to the starting lineup.

Henk Veerman scores his first league goal in 11 months on his return to the starting lineup.

Veerman finally had reason to celebrate in the crunch game against Wehen Wiesbaden when he made it 2-1 five minutes from time to set his side up for their first win in ten weeks," he said. "I was really happy to help the team with my goal and we got the win at long last. It was an important victory and did us a lot of good." A week later, the Dutchman scored twice against Arminia Bielefeld to sign off into the winter break on a high, in stark contrast to the previous year. "After such a long layoff it was a very positive way to end the year," he said afterwards. " I'm so happy to be back on the pitch with the lads again."

Understandably, all the striker wants from the new year is to stay fit, play well and bag as many goals as possible. "We have to do a lot better after the restart, we know that,", he said. "But we also know we have to quality to do better. I aim to do my bit by hopefully playing lots of games and helping the team with goals and good performances."

 

Photos: Witters

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