Krystian Bielik is making steady progress on the road to recovery and is well aware there’s plenty more hard work ahead of him.
The good thing is, though, he is on the right track - and he knows it too.
The 23-year-old Polish midfielder sustained an injury to the anterior cruciate ligament to his right knee at the end of January of this year.
The injury came in the first half of Derby’s 1-0 home win over Bristol City at Pride Park Stadium.
That immediately ruled him out of action for the rest of the 2020/21 season and he was also required to undergo surgery to repair the damage.
It was a bitter blow for Bielik, who was starring for Wayne Rooney’s side at the time, after he had successfully recovered from the same injury that he suffered just over 12 months beforehand.
As we know from life and not just football, we are all provided with challenges and hurdles to overcome in our own ways.
What is important right now is that Bielik is facing his latest challenge head on and with a smile on his face.
He is putting in the hard work at Moor Farm Training Ground with Derby’s experienced medical team to gradually work his way back to full fitness.
Bielik still has plenty of work to get through, but he is certainly feeling a positive frame of mind.
Speaking to RamsTV, Bielik said: “I am feeling very good, I feel much better now. January, when I got injured, is a long time ago now and it has been four months since I had my surgery too.
“The worst is behind me, and I am feeling like every day I am making progress and day-by-day I am getting closer to the stage where I can go outside and join the team to train.
“Obviously, it is not that time just yet, but I am doing all the work to get there. I feel it is coming, slowly.”
To sustain the same injury for the second time inside a year was, understandably, hard for Bielik and those close to him to take.
From a mental aspect, Bielik has remained strong and resilient from the first moment and his positive mindset has seen him make good progress in the months since.
What has also been helpful for Bielik is that, compared to last year, he is not having to do his rehabilitation work under COVID-19 lockdown rules.
That means he can come to Moor Farm daily, work with Derby’s medical staff on a face-to-face basis and utilise the on-site facilities.
He explained: “At the beginning, it was very tough. I had to prepare my leg for the surgery because the surgeon wanted the knee to be very dry without any swelling, so that was about one month.
“That was the hardest bit, waiting for the surgery and making the leg stronger. Then, after surgery, it was about getting going again. The knee was swollen again, and it was a very slow progression.
“I was doing very boring stuff at the gym - the same exercises every day - so that was tough as well. You get to the stage after about three months after surgery where you can do much more in the gym; you are doing some strength work and some different exercises.
“I went on holiday to Poland too, so I spent five weeks in rehabilitation work with different coaches in different environments and I had my friends and family close to me.
“It gave me so much power to go through that stage, which was a tough stage doing all the strength work every day. I enjoyed my time in Poland and I worked hard as well. Now I am back in Derby, and I feel very good. I do not really feel any weakness or aching in my knee, so that is positive. I am glad and happy.
“When I had the bad news about my injury, I knew it was important to keep my head up and do everything I could to try and get that smile on my face back. You can’t really think too much about it, or when am I going to be back on the pitch again, you have to just think what the next step is.”
He added: “I am thinking about the next small step I can do in the next few weeks and days. In terms of rehabilitation compared to the last injury, it is a bit easier because there is no lockdown.
“I can come to training ground and see all the lads, the fitness coaches, the coaches and work hard in the gym with the top facilities. Whereas last year I was doing my rehabilitation work almost for three and a half months in my garden, closed in four walls with my girlfriend and my dog and I could not do much; I could not go out, I could not relax. The process has gone quicker this time and I think I prefer it this way much more than sitting in my house and trying to get back to fitness in my garden!”
Bielik has received plenty of messages wishing him well during his rehabilitation work from Derby’s supporters through social media.
He has also posted occasional updates on this Instagram page to maintain engagement with the Rams’ faithful and they have been following his progress closely.
The 2019 signing from Arsenal is grateful for the support of Derby’s fans, as well as everyone around the club for rallying around him.
He said: “I can’t thank the fans enough for all the messages and all the people around the club too. The messages that I received; I didn’t expect that. It is so nice to receive the messages and for people to appreciate and think of me.
“It is hard to not switch off and not think about it, so I am really glad to have people around me to give me that power and because of them I believe more that I can be back, and I can do this again.
“The target is to come back even stronger and to show all those people that I am doing this for, as well as myself, for them too to enjoy and have me back on the pitch again.”
He added: “I will be back; I promise you I will be back and I will be back stronger. Fingers crossed I can come back as soon as possible and help the team again.”
What is important for Bielik, is to not do too much too soon.
He is eager to get back as soon as possible, but with Derby’s medical team with him every step of the way they can ensure he follows his rehabilitation programme to the letter.
The midfielder is desperate to be back on the pitch, but he knows he must keep a cool head and follow the advice of the experts.
He said: “When you lose so much time in your football career to these types of injuries, that is normal that you want to get back on the pitch as soon as possible.
“We have good people here; the club doctor, fitness coaches and physiotherapists and they slow me down a bit, as they should, because they don’t want me to make a mistake.
“We didn’t make a mistake last time; we had a long break and good rehabilitation and did everything spot on.
“I have to do this all again and I think it will be the same with small changes. The timing is that the surgeon wants to work towards is eight months after the surgery.
“It is the medical team’s decision ultimately when I am ready to train and play and if they are 100 per cent sure I am ready, and I am too, then we will move forward. If after eight months I am not completely sure, I will not take the risk, I will take my time.”
He added: “I can’t wait to be back and that is why it is even harder to not count days for my first game back, but I have to keep a cool head.
“There is no pressure on me to come back as soon as possible, and that is really important. But I know fans want to see me back and I want to play for them, for my team and for myself again. It will be something special to play again at Pride Park with all the fans.”