By Chris Slavin
Cody McDonald said that he has added motivation to prove his worth in a Dons shirt after missing a large part of last season due to injury.
The striker's last Wimbledon appearance came in early March against Oxford, but he had played through the pain barrier for some time after fracturing a metatarsal. The problem actually first surfaced before the Gillingham away game in December and it limited Cody's impact during the second-half of 2017/18 after he had chipped in with seven goals.
"It was not a career-threatening injury by any stretch of the imagination, but because I had not really been injured over the years it was something I had to come to terms with," said Cody. "It's a minor setback in where I want to be with this club. I'm really looking forward to next season. I've had a bit of a chill-out and I'm raring to go again. I've been hitting the gym hard to try and get my fitness where it needs to be for pre-season. I did not score as many goals as I would have liked to last season, but it's down to me to get myself fit and back into the manager's plans, so that I can give him something to think about next season.
"In past years when the season has finished I had really been looking forward to a bit of a rest, but I feel I've had my break now! I'm really desperate to get going again. If anything, it has made me hungrier to do well at this football club. The close season has come at a bad time for me. I am itching to get back playing again. I don't like being on the sidelines. There's nothing worse than coming in and being in the physio room or in the gym when the other lads are out training. It can be very frustrating."
Cody added that his determination to help the team did not do him any favours as his injury ultimately ended his season prematurely. However, the specialist has delivered good news to Cody in the last few days by giving him the green light to start jogging very soon and he hopes to be back for pre-season.
"I thought I fitted in really well at the club: it was a really great squad to be around, I really enjoyed playing for the gaffer and working with the coaches here. When I came back to the club (for the sponsors' dinner) it was great to see everyone again, including the fans. I also went to the end of season do and it was nice to catch-up with everyone, having not been around for a while. It's such a great environment and it did not feel like I had been away. You are welcomed back with open arms and that's very nice at this club.
"There's nothing worse than coming into the training ground to go the gym or the physio room and watching the others go out training. I don't like being injured at the best of times and that's probably been my downfall. I actually found out I had done it just before the Gillingham game (on 30 December). I discovered that I had a hairline fracture of the fifth metatarsal bone, but we did not have a lot of strikers at the time. I spoke to the manager and told him it was sore, but that I could play through the pain barrier and we could maybe manage it around the games.
"Though there were a few times I could not train due to us doing sessions on 3G surfaces, I felt like my body was adjusting. The pain seemed to go away and I felt I was over the worst of it, but then I put my weight on it too much in training one day and I felt it go. I went for an X-ray and found out that I had a Jones fracture, which is the worst fracture you can get of the fifth metatarsal bone.
"I am making good progress now. I'm not quite at the running stage yet. I've been on the bike for a couple of weeks and I've started this week on the cross trainer. That's all been fine now and the specialist said I can step it up gradually each week now. I'm looking to start light jogging this time next week and then progress from there. It's important not to jump straight in at the deep end. It's slow progress, but all being well I should be fine for the start of pre-season. The specialist has dealt with a lot of these kinds of injuries and he told me that it's usually 12-14 weeks in terms of recovery before you can be back out playing. I think that would mean I could be back playing again a week before pre-season."
Cody has an impressive goals record during his career and he's confident of keeping that going for quite a few years yet. The challenge of helping Wimbledon to progress is one that really motivates him and the former Gillingham striker believes he can come back stronger.
"I should be able to come back and be firing on all cylinders, once I've got my fitness back," added Cody. "You never know what's around the corner, but there's no reason why I can't go on for a few years yet. I have had an operation to insert a pin into the metatarsal now and the surgeon said that will make it stronger in the long run. Once I'm back playing, there should not be any reoccurrences of the injury.
"League One is tough every year, but there is always a surprise team that people don't expect to be up there. Why can't that be us? People will not expect us to be up there challenging, but the manager is going to do his work during the summer and try to strengthen the team. The manager will give us our game-plan and we just have to go into the matches and execute it. If we do that, there's no reason why we cannot push on to greater heights. Even though it was a great achievement in the end to stay in the league, you cannot every year be thinking, 'we just have to stay up'. You have to look to be more positive than that."