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Wheater backing Max Clayton to hit the right notes again

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Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse
David Wheater does not reckon it will be too long before “boy band” striker Max Clayton will be back on song for Wanderers.

The 22-year-old will have an operation tomorrow to assess what needs to be done to correct a knee problem which has left him unable to train properly since pre-season.

Clayton’s career at Wanderers has been sabotaged by injury but after some bright performances over the summer it appeared he was finally on the road to a comeback.

He even wowed onlookers at the club’s Swedish training base with a version of Billy Joel’s Uptown Girl as a forfeit.

Wheater is confident Clayton will hit the right note again, even if it means another frustrating spell on the sidelines.

“Believe me, I know all about sitting and watching and I know it’s rubbish,” he told The Bolton News.

“I’d say the same thing to Max. If they come back to him and say ‘this might be three months out’ it might mean another 10 years with no problems, so you go for it. I know it’s frustrating not getting involved.

“He’s a good player and we miss him. I don’t miss his singing, though. He does all sorts, he fancies himself in a boy band I think.

“He’s a top lad to have around. It was a shame that after training all summer he’s just had some problems with swelling in his knee.

“Obviously there’s something wrong – it’s not normal – but I hope everything goes well for him because it’ll be great to have him back.”

Wheater’s own injury record could perhaps act as a cautionary tale for Clayton, or any young player returning from a long-term absence.

Back in 2012, Wheater ruptured his cruciate knee ligament playing against West Brom in the Premier League and missed the run-in to relegation.

His return in the Championship took several months longer than it should because of an undetected growth on his knee which prevented him from regaining full fitness.

“After I did my cruciate ligament I was playing with pain every day in training,” he said. “I’d never really had an operation before so I just thought it was normal.

“I went to see a specialist and he did a test with his hands and said right away ‘you need an operation'.

“I had what was called a Cyclops Legion – and the specialist said it was the biggest one he’d ever seen. It was on my kicking leg and every time I used it, it would squeeze on the growth. It was horrible.”

Clayton has been called in by the specialists to take a look at his knee, having suffered a similar cruciate injury playing against Ipswich Town in 2014.

Doctors have told the youngster the joint is in “good condition” but Wheater has found out in the last 12 months small corrections can have a lasting effect.

The big defender had suffered a string of connecting injuries after slipping a disc in a warm-up before a game against Leeds United.

He has since sought the help of a specialist and is now enjoying one of his longest runs in the Wanderers team, starting 12 of the last 13 league games, straddled over two seasons.

“Little tiny things can make a big difference,” he said. “I say it every time about those little sole inserts they put into my boots. They fixed me.

“If I broke a pair of boots before a game now I’d probably have to tell the manager I couldn’t play. They are so important.

“When I slipped my disc everything went lob-sided. I did two hamstrings and a calf on that side and the specialist said I was about an inch out of line, and since he found it there hasn’t been a problem.”

Zach Clough has also gone back to the drawing board with Wanderers’ physio staff to make sure his next comeback from a hamstring injury is a successful one.

The prized striker has endured a frustrating summer and was forced to limp out of the 2-1 win against Fleetwood in his first start of the new season.

“We need them both back in the side because they are two good, young players,” Wheater said. “Both of them are well capable of scoring plenty of goals at this level and above, so the sooner they get back the better it will be for us but they have to be ready first, there’s no point rushing because you’ll just break down again.”


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