LEWIS FERGUSON EXCLUSIVE: My happiness is playing football … and in an instant it's just taken away from you
EuropaLeague

LEWIS FERGUSON EXCLUSIVE: My happiness is playing football … and in an instant it's just taken away from you

May 11, 2024

The night after the first major operation of his career, a stricken Lewis Ferguson lay propped up by pillows and pain killers in Bologna’s Toniolo Clinic. Football on the television only fuelled mental demons tap-dancing around his mind.

AC Milan faced Roma in the first leg of their Europa League quarter-final. And, as Gianluca Mancini rose to nod the only goal of the game, the Scotland international glanced at his swollen knee and tortured himself with what ifs?

The highest-scoring Scot in Serie A history, the 24-year-old had claimed six goals in Bologna’s remarkable pursuit of Champions League football. Now facing months on the sidelines, he wondered when he would ever sample the joy of scoring against Europe’s elite — and, if he did, would his shattered knee hold out?

‘I was watching that game thinking: “It’s impossible that I will be able to move like this again”,’ Ferguson tells Mail Sport in his first interview since the operation.

‘You are lying there in hospital, just out of surgery, your knee is massive and you don’t feel good. That’s what goes through your head: “How is it possible that I will ever move the same as these guys I am watching here on TV?”.’

Assurance came thick and fast. Bologna boss Thiago Motta underwent the same procedure during a decorated career and told his captain he would have more chances to fulfil his ambitions. Scotland manager Steve Clarke was one of the first on the phone with words of comfort.

 

Bologna's Lewis Ferguson faces months on sidelines after his agonising knee injury

Bologna’s Lewis Ferguson faces months on sidelines after his agonising knee injury

 

Scotland manager Steve Clarke was one of the first to phone Ferguson and offer support

Scotland manager Steve Clarke was one of the first to phone Ferguson and offer support

 

Former Aberdeen player Ferguson had dreams of playing a major role for Scots at Euros

Former Aberdeen player Ferguson had dreams of playing a major role for Scots at Euros

Ferguson’s father, Derek, was no stranger to a surgical procedures either during 23 years with Rangers, Hearts and Sunderland. Next week, Ferguson’s parents will fly to Italy to offer help and support to a young man struggling to coming to terms with the timing of his first significant injury.

The midfielder was a £20million summer target for Juventus, both Milan clubs and Napoli, with Bologna close to securing Champions League qualification when his knee packed in during a 0-0 draw with Monza. Beyond that lay a first appearance at the Euro 2024 finals with Scotland.

‘Half of it is mental, half of it is physical,’ he continues. ‘I spoke to the doctors and the physios doing my rehab and they all said the same thing. It’s just as challenging mentally it is physically.

‘Physically, it’s hard now because you can’t move, you are on crutches, your leg is in a brace. You can’t do anything yourself. I literally can’t do anything. My partner Lauren is having to put my clothes on for me and wash me. Honestly, it’s soul destroying.

‘I’m on the couch all day using a machine to ice my leg and watching TV, waiting for the time to pass.

‘It has been really difficult. People outside of football might look at it as a footballer being injured and part of football, of course.

‘But most of my happiness comes from just playing football and, in an instant, it just gets taken away from you.’

Milan playing Roma was a relief compared to the video nasty he’d watched the night before. The operation to repair his ACL, medial ligament and meniscus was beamed on to a screen in the operation theatre. In a gruesome scenario, the former Aberdeen player watched the running repairs to the knee which had been ripped to bits during an innocuous split-second challenge in the goalless draw with Monza.

‘My foot was planted and the boy came in to tackle me,’ he says. ‘His knee caught the side of my knee at high impact and it was just really bad timing.

‘I had never been injured before in my life so I didn’t really know what kind of pain to expect.

‘It was painful when it happened and the referee asked me if I wanted the physios on.

‘I actually said no because I just wanted to get on with the game.

‘So I stood up and tried to play on for five or six minutes.

‘I was in pain when I was running and the second time I got the ball I passed it and my knee was just so unstable. I knew then there was a serious problem.’

The product of a footballing dynasty, Ferguson has always been less emotional than his dad or his uncle Barry, the former Rangers and Scotland captain. That changed when they told him his dreams of playing in the Euros and next season’s Champions League were over. He can still feel the stinging in the eyes now.

Ferguson was a £20m target for Juventus and the Milan clubs before his injury lay-off

Ferguson was a £20m target for Juventus and the Milan clubs before his injury lay-off

 ‘I could tell from the look on the doctors’ faces in the changing room after the game that it wasn’t good,’ adds Ferguson.

‘You just get a feeling something is not right and I went home with the brace and the crutches and waited for the scan to see what the damage was.

‘The support I received was absolutely amazing. Fans, family, team-mates.

‘It was difficult because it’s hard for anyone to say anything that will make you feel any better. It did put a smile on my face at times.’

Fourth in Serie A with five games to play, Bologna are almost there. Motta claims his captain can’t be replaced and, before the stunning 3-1 win over Roma in the Stadio Olympico which took them a step closer to the Champions League, team-mates took to the pitch carrying Ferguson’s No 19 shirt in a show of support. It was held aloft during the post-match celebrations. ‘When they held up my strip with my No 19 on it, that was amazing,’ he says.

‘It meant an awful lot because these are the guys that I train with and I play with and I have such a good relationship with.

‘They made me feel so involved. Even after they won, they FaceTimed me in the changing room and made me feel I was still part of it, which was really nice.

‘It’s such a close group and I really think that’s one of the reasons we have been so successful.’

The Euros are gone, but the Champions League dream might still be revived. Wisely, Ferguson won’t speculate on the possibility of returning to action before the group stage ends in December. The knee is in a bad way and Bologna have still to get there anyway.

Months of gruelling rehabilitation lie ahead. This is where the gym habit developed at the age of 15 comes into its own.

‘We moved house and I couldn’t get the bus to school with my pals anymore,’ says Ferguson.

‘I could have got a bus myself, but I preferred to go with my dad. So he warned me that if I wasn’t going to go on the bus I would have to leave with him at half seven every morning.

‘I would go to the gym and do a bit before school and that became a part of my life.

‘I’ll be in there pretty much every day now working on things.

‘It will take a good mentality to get through this.

‘But I’m sure I have what it takes to get back fit. I know my strong mentality will be tested in the coming months, but I am positive I will be fine.’

source

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *