DEDICATION is not a quality that new Accrington Stanley captain Andy Procter is short of.
Procter – installed as club skipper following Peter Cavanagh’s eight-month ban for betting offences – will return from a one-match suspension to make his first appearance of the season in tonight’s Carling Cup first round clash with League One side Walsall.
And, while many footballers jetted off for weeks in the sun, the midfielder was spending a month of his summer holiday at the Royal Blackburn Hospital.
Gladly, Procter had not been consumed by illness or injury, but by a determination to qualify as a physiotherapist – even though he is still only 26.
It is a career plan that stems back to a cruciate knee ligament injury in 2005, and will see him again spend two nights a week at the University of Salford this season.
“I had to do a month’s placement at Blackburn Royal in the physio’s department there,” he said.
“I was on the orthopaedic department, so in the morning I was up in the ward helping out the senior physiotherapist and in the afternoon I was seeing patients in the outpatients department. I had my own patients and they booked out a column in the diary just for me!
“I had exams in the summer and I’m going into the third year now, starting again in September, every Monday and Thursday until about 7.30 or 8 o’clock.
“Sometimes it’s the last thing you want to do because it’s your night gone. But it’s good.
“It gives you something to take your mind off football, which you need every now and then, and I can see the end of it now. I’m halfway through it and it’s a four-year course.
“I didn’t really get a proper summer holiday but it is good that I can get my physio degree sorted while I’m still playing football.
“It was when I snapped my cruciate. I really got into my own rehab. When I was down at Lilleshall and looked into what they do, and realised the PFA would support you while you’re qualifying, I thought I’d crack on with it.
“When I snapped my cruciate it just showed what a short career it is and you’ve got to work for a long time.
“I try not to do any work here because I don’t want to step on the physio’s toes.
“But you hear a couple of lads asking when they’ve got a few aches and pains!”
Procter may even have left Stanley at the end of his contract in the summer after being asked to take a pay cut.
“It rumbled on a bit longer than I wanted it to but I was glad to get everything sorted,” said Procter, who eventually signed a new two-year deal.
“Early on it was a bit touch and go but I was always in contact with the gaffer, so there was never really a point when I was definitely going to go.
“I did speak to a couple of clubs and there were a couple of offers on the table, but I chose to stay.”
Stanley, who will be hoping to earn a tie against Premier League opposition with progression tonight, remain in confident mood despite Saturday’s 1-0 loss at Rotherham – when the Reds were unlucky to lose.
“We’ve got to take heart from the performance, even if we were upset with the result,” said boss John Coleman.
Newly installed seats at the Crown Ground are set to be used for the first time tonight, in Stanley’s first home game of the season.