THE BEAMING smile across Mamady Sidibe’s has been greater than ever these past few days in the United States . . . but it’s hardly surprising in the circumstances.
The popular Mali international ended almost two years of injury torment when he appeared as a substitute in the second half of the pre-season match against Columbus Crew on Tuesday; a big step for him on what has been a long, long road to recovery.
Sidibe has had to battle his way back from two ruptured Achilles tendons and then a dislocated knee, injuries that threatened to bring his career to an end.
Now though, all that heartache would appear to be behind him as he looks forward to the prospect of featuring prominently in the Potters’ squad this season.
“It was a great feeling and I was very happy,” he said in reflecting on the moment when he stepped onto the pitch midway through the second half of the Crew game.
“It’s been a long, long time since I last played in the first team, so it was a special moment to get back on the pitch and I was a little bit emotional.
“There were times when I thought I would not make it back, particularly after I suffered the knee injury early last season, but everyone at the Club has given me so much support and encouragement, so I wanted to repay that faith.”
He added: “It has taken a lot of hard work and the physios have done a very good job with me, helping to keep me going on the long road back to recovery.”
While the pre-season preparation has been tough for City’s squad so far, you won’t find Sidibe complaining one little bit about so much fitness work.
“It’s always been very, very hard and this year has been no different,” said the 32-year-old. “I’m just glad to be a part of it this time after missing the last two years, so hopefully I will be that much stronger for going through it this time.
“I’ve started very well and done everything that has been asked of me in the training up to now. Everything is going in the right direction for me.
“This year, there is a lot of travelling, but it’s a good experience. America is a first time for me and playing against different teams in different countries is a valuable experience for the squad and for the Club. It shows how we have progressed.
“These games are a good test for us, not only because they are well into their season, but also because of the heat and humidity out here.”
Nevertheless, Sidibe and his team-mates will be given a well-earned rest following their arrival in Orlando on Wednesday ahead of Saturday’s second match of the twelve-day tour at the Citrus Bowl when they take on Adrian Heath’s side.
A visit to a water park and a shopping trip were being planned on their day off, although Sidibe said: “The water park won’t be much of a rest.”