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Premier League debut a bittersweet moment for Aston Villa's Orjan Nyland

By Matt Maher | Aston Villa | Published:

In football as in life, things come at you fast. Just ask Orjan Nyland.

Orjan Nyland enters the Molineux pitch.

“Like going from zero to 100mph in a matter of seconds,” was how the Villa goalkeeper summed up his return to first-team action at Wolves on Sunday after more than 10 months on the sidelines.

Just six days previously, Nyland had been playing in front of 200 supporters at Villa Park for the club’s under-23s.

But a calf problem afflicting No.1 Tom Heaton and the unfortunate injury suffered by Jed Steer in the opening minutes at Molineux, suddenly saw him flung back into the fray.

For Nyland, it would prove a bittersweet afternoon in more ways than one. The culmination of a personal journey which began when he suffered a ruptured Achilles in training last December, tainted by the result and circumstances surrounding his return.

“You never want to replace an injured player, you feel for them,” he said. “Ten months ago it went against me and on Sunday I was the one replacing the other one.

“I know how it feels. I know how it is to be injured and I know how it is to come back.”

The fact it was Steer he replaced carried an even deeper meaning. Nyland was Villa’s No.1 when he suffered the injury which set in motion a chain of events that culminated with the English keeper becoming a hero of the club’s promotion charge.

Steer, who had spent the first half of last season on loan at Charlton, suffered his own Achilles injury in 2016. He provided Nyland with no shortage of support and advice during the Norwegian international’s battle back to fitness.

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The last thing Nyland did before coming on at Molineux was comfort his friend, who had to be helped off the pitch by Villa's medical staff.

“For me, the whole time, there has just been one goal and that was to get back out on the pitch,” said Nyland. “I have trained well for the last couple of months and have been ready whenever the opportunity comes. Sunday was one of those days.”

Nyland’s recovery from injury was lengthy and tough but largely free of complications.

Yet he returned to fitness in the summer with Villa in the Premier League and third-choice behind Steer and Heaton, who arrived in an £8.5million summer move from Burnley.

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The past few months have been a story of behind-closed-doors friendlies, under-23 matches and above all else patience.

“I have had the dream of playing at the top level since I was a small, small kid,” said Nyland. “It was just a matter of getting back out on the pitch because I get to do what I love. That was the motivation.

“I have taken my time. I have played games since August really and I have been down with the under-23s, the young lads, to get my minutes. I have felt ready for a long time and Sunday was my chance to show it.

“It has been up and down these past 10 months, obviously. You have good days and bad days in your recovery.

“There are periods of time when it goes really well. I have been lucky enough to minimise the setbacks and there has been a positive curve the whole way.

“I just took my time because I knew I could not rush my injury. The surgeon said it would take six months, that sort of timeframe.

“Since that time I have been back in training. I have learned a lot about myself in this period.

“It is hard to stay outside the team when you have played everything and been No.1. But I have come through it and I showed that on Sunday.”

Matt Maher

By Matt Maher
@mjmarr_star

Chief sports writer for the Express & Star.

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