Brendan shows Creed of positive thinking

Brendan shows Creed of positive thinking
The first week of EHL Premier Division action saw Surbiton men resume winning ways with a dominant 8-1 win over Brooklands MU. For Surbiton’s Brendan Creed, the ability to play competitive league hockey again was a huge relief – not least because it had been 330 days since he last played a competitive match.

It was almost 12 months ago that Creed ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). An operation, involving a 10-inch graft from the hamstring to the ACL, promised a long road to recovery. And of course, somewhere along that timeline was the lure of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. 

As he was delivered the news, Creed says his first emotion was one of a deep nauseous lurch in the pit of his stomach, then the full scale of his injury and its impact hit him.

“I gave myself 30 to 40 minutes to get everything out, I was just lying on the physio’s couch letting every emotion spill out,” he said. “Then it was a case of ‘right, let’s go, let’s make a plan and attack everything’.

“Out on the pitch, I had basically felt a pop in my knee but I didn’t think it was an ACL because I could still put weight through it. I thought I might have dislocated it.” recalls the 27-year-old England and Great Britain player.

In the room at the same time as Creed was discovering the true extent of his injury was England and Great Britain’s Sabbie Heesh. The goalkeeper had been through a similar trauma and it was her supportive presence, plus her advice to Brendan to “just let it all out”, that allowed the midfielder to wash all the emotion out.

Looking back, Creed has a very self-possessed take on it.

“I was blessed, if that was the right word, because the damage wasn’t as severe as it could have been. You normally get other issues, such as problems with the ligaments or meniscus but I was lucky because I only tore my calf, so the rest time for that was only as long as the recovery from surgery. So I knew there was a sniff of a chance to recover for the Olympics. That was enough to go after.”

Of course, Creed knew that the chance of recovery in time for the 2020 Olympic Games was very slender but, he says, that had the benefit of focusing his mind. He followed the advice of the physiotherapist and strength and conditioning coaches to the letter and he emerged from the recovery period in the best physical shape of his life. 

For many people, the target of a place at the Olympics could have led to a rushed and potentially disastrous outcome, but Creed’s inner voice was one of caution and reason. 

“I told myself, I’m only 27, so I know I have another Olympic cycle in me. I sat down with the physio and did the ‘hard truth’. If I wasn’t physically ready, then I wasn’t going to rush it. I would have been quite comfortable to say ‘let’s rein it in.”

Brendan Creed 2018/19 League Finals
(Creed featured for Surbiton in the 2018/19 League Finals)

Following rehabilitation, Creed says it took him two or three months to get the confidence to train at the intensity he wanted to. “Sprinting was something that worried me, but now I am very confident doing that.”

As a youngster, Creed had faced many setbacks and injuries. An 18-month recovery after surgery for bilateral spondylosis was probably the worse of a number of injuries but again, Creed finds the positive.

“I have bounced back from so many injuries that I know what recovery takes,” he explained. “Leading up to big tournaments I always seem to pick up quite significant injuries, I have been through it before so there was never a doubt in my mind.” He pauses before adding: “I couldn’t allow any doubts in.”

There was an upside to the recovery period. As a northerner based in the south, Creed rarely gets to spend time with his family. The months of rehab allowed for that. For his friends, the good news is that he has also been brushing up on his cookery skills. Post-match get-togethers likely involve “Enchiladas at Creedy’s”.

But for now, Creed is focused on helping Surbiton maintain their position as the leading club in England, despite the threat of further lockdown restricting playing opportunities.

“We have to be sensible with the decisions we take. We mustn’t take too many risks with Covid still such a huge threat. I would feel uncomfortable if we were doing things that some parts of the country can’t do.

“That said, our team ethos is all about winning the league. We have strengthened this year – James Royce is staying an extra year, which is fantastic for us. He brings sensible level-headedness to the team. Judging by some of the signings the other top teams have made, they are thinking the same thing. It will be a really interesting season because other teams are posing threats that we are not really certain about. It’s going to be a very competitive league.”

The 8-1 win over Brooklands MU at Sugden Road was the bright start that Creed wanted on his return, although conceding a goal was not on his ‘wish-list’. This week’s encounter with Beeston will be a stern test for the reigning champions but one that the returning player is relishing.