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Under-21s

Coming off the ropes – Corey Jordan is fighting back

AFC Bournemouth AFC Bournemouth

At 17, AFC Bournemouth defender Corey Jordan had the footballing world at his feet.

A first professional contract, widely tipped as one of the best young talents in the country and a first-team debut under his belt.

He had played in high-profile friendlies against Valencia and AC Milan and been on the bench for the Cherries’ Premier League clash against Manchester United in front of a crowd of more than 74,000 at Old Trafford in May 2016.

Selected in The Guardian’s Next Generation 2015 alongside the likes of Trent Alexander-Arnold, Jordan also featured as a wonderkid in the September 2016 edition of Match of the Day Magazine.

But, just 11 days after he had turned 18, his world came crashing down.

On a fateful day in March 2017, Jordan sustained an horrific knee injury during the closing stages of a friendly against Sampdoria at Canford Arena.  

Having landed awkwardly following an aerial challenge, Jordan needed gas and air as he was carried off on a stretcher, the game subsequently abandoned as players were too distressed to continue.

The injury – which saw him rupture anterior cruciate and lateral collateral ligaments together with damaging tendons and the posterolateral corner – would rob him of 11 months of his career.

Instead of bemoaning his luck and feeling sorry for himself, Jordan worked tirelessly on his rehabilitation and remains refreshingly philosophical about his misfortune.

In a candid interview with afcb.co.uk, he said: “I am a firm believer in everything happening for a reason.

“Obviously, I would rather not have had the injury but I wouldn’t change any of the experiences because I think they have shaped and moulded me into a better player and a better person.

“The Sampdoria game was probably one of my best for a while. I started at centre-half and got moved to right-back.

“I was there for about five minutes and went up for a challenge. I went to head the ball and their player rolled his shoulder. My leg caught his shoulder and I landed with half of my body going one way and half going the other.

“I thought I’d broken my leg. It went numb straightaway. I was in pain and remember letting out a screech.

“I knew I’d done something serious but didn’t know what. I went for a scan and, once I’d got the results, it was almost kind of peaceful.

"I knew what I’d done and knew I couldn’t do anything about it except focus on my work and get through everything.”

Born in Bournemouth and raised in Mudeford, Jordan, who joined the Cherries as a seven-year-old, said the ongoing support he had received from team-mates, staff and the club’s medical team helped him through the ordeal.

He was particularly keen to acknowledge the efforts of then-under-21 physiotherapist Victoria McIntyre (pictured below), who now works for Arsenal, and Phil Keehne, head of sports science for the under-21s.  

“They were like my second mum and dad!” said Jordan. “I had great support from everybody. I worked closely with Victoria and Phil and was with them virtually every day for about 11 months.

“I built up a good relationship with them. Although Victoria has gone to Arsenal, I am still in contact with her. Victoria and Phil were one of the main reasons I got through the rehab. They really looked after me.”

Following the scan, Jordan immediately had major surgery in Scotland before taking his first steps on the long and lonely road to recovery.

“The first day was the worst day,” said Jordan. “I was in bed and was distraught. But I was quite lucky after that because I didn’t have to fight with my mindset. It just switched to ‘can’t do anything about it now’.

“There were days when I lacked motivation because I was constantly doing the same thing, especially in the first couple of months. But I had Victoria and Phil (pictured below) pushing me.

“I had a little setback when I was getting close to being able to run which threw me a bit. I had a hip problem which set me back for a couple of weeks. At the time, it seemed like forever.”

Asked whether he had ever got angry during his rehab, Jordan replied: “I wouldn’t say angry. I look at other players who are doing well in the first-team squad and think maybe that could have been me now.

“But, at the same time, I was still quite a young and immature footballer. I had almost gone straight into a men’s environment but perhaps wasn’t really ready for it physically.

“In one way, it has been a bit frustrating but it has given me time to focus on myself physically. I might have developed better technically and tactically but I’ve been able to do the other side, like in the gym.

“I don’t believe in fate but certain things happen to you and it’s about how you react. I feel like I’ve reacted fairly well.

“I’m still only 20 which is reasonably young, especially as centre-halves usually get better as they get older.

“I feel like I’ve gone through a lot already. Even though I haven’t played many senior games, I’ve got the experience of other things like dealing with setbacks and injuries.

“If I’d gone all the way through and had an injury at 21 or 22 then it probably would have hit me harder than it did when I was 17.

“I never really got angry. I may have looked at other players and thought that could be me but, at the same time, I think you go on a certain journey.”

Jordan, who had a loan spell with Eastbourne Borough in National South last season, has turned in some impressive displays for the under-21s this season, not least during their hard-fought 1-0 win against Nottingham Forest in the Premier League Cup last month.

He added: “When I first came back from my injury, I probably set myself a lot of targets which clouded my vision.

“I was thinking ‘I need to get in the first team or I need to go on loan’. Thoughts like that just push down your mindset to one thing. I wasn’t focused on my football.

“My mindset now is to just enjoy playing football, work hard and let the rest take care of itself.

“Football is the only thing I can affect, the rest of it, fingers crossed, will work out. When you are out for a long time, you realise just how much you enjoy playing football. I certainly did.”

The Cherries host Stoke City in their second Premier League Cup game at Vitality Stadium on Friday (7pm kick-off).

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