Millwall striker ruled out surgery to play his part in Championship survival battle

BY RICHARD CAWLEY
richard@slpmedia.co.uk

Tom Elliott has revealed he opted against shoulder surgery so that he could still play a part in Millwall’s fight to stay in the Championship.The striker, 28, dislocated his left shoulder in the third minute of a 2-0 defeat to Blackburn Rovers on January 12.

But Elliott only missed four league fixtures before he was back on the bench.#
The Lions were already without Tom Bradshaw, out for the campaign after suffering cruciate knee ligament damage against Brentford in November.

And Elliott had no intention of depleting their frontline options any further.

“The option of surgery would have kept me out for 10 to 12 weeks,” he told the South London Press. “That would pretty much put me out for the rest of the season.

Tom Elliot, Millwall striker

“Instead I came back in six or seven weeks.

“I wanted to come back as soon as possible because I was on a good run of form, I was scoring goals and playing.

“I did rush back, we knew I was rushing back, but touch wood I’ve not made my shoulder any worse.

“Getting myself back to full fitness has been the tough stage, but I think we’re at the back end of it now.

“Since I came back from my shoulder injury it has been quite difficult for me, to be honest. It’s been a bit niggly – hard to get my fitness. It’s been a struggle playing with one arm – because obviously I’ve played with two my whole life.

“It will probably take another couple of months to get my shoulder strength back.

“The boys are in a bit of a relegation struggle and I wanted to put my body forward and play for the team.

Tom Elliot, Millwall striker

“I know the physio wanted me to get the operation, because he is a bit nervous, but I’m not being out for 10-12 weeks. I don’t want to miss my football and not play for that long. I don’t want to be on the sidelines, being helpless. I wanted to help –  whether I’m in from the start or it’s 10-15 minutes at the end. That’s the mentality I had.

“I’ve not had a negative effect on my shoulder.

“My game is a lot about fighting players off, and holding them back with two arms is easier than one. That’s a big thing.

“You’re using your arms for jumping, holding people off, moving and shooting  – you use them a lot in football.

“It’s been difficult to adapt but I’ve had to adapt. I’ve had to bide my time since coming back.

“I had a scan Monday [on his shoulder] and got really good results on Tuesday.”

Elliott’s shoulder popped out of its joint after he had gone into an aerial duel.

Tom Elliot, Millwall striker

“It was such a crazy, weird injury,” he said. “I’d jumped and got my arm outstretched.

“It was the way my arm got caught in his – his right arm has come down on my shoulder. I’ve done that movement a thousand times in my career. I must have been one degree off – or the area he has hit is a pressure point – and it has popped it out of the socket.

“At first I was alright but when I got back in the dressing room and the shock had worn off, that was when the pain started to set in.

“They couldn’t put it back in for 45 minutes and I was on gas and air. I’d probably say it was the worst pain I’ve been in injury-wise. I’ve had a lot of injuries – but that was the most uncomfortable.

“I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. But I’ve come through it. It’s another tick to my injury list!

“I dislocated my right shoulder in a different way, that’s been perfectly fine.

“That’s one of the reasons I didn’t want to get surgery – because that’s been fine since. I’ve done my hamstrings, I’ve had a quad tear and an avulsion fracture in my leg – that’s where the bone comes off.

“I’ve always come back stronger from injuries and they’ve made me aware of my body more.

Tom Elliot, Millwall striker

“I’ve got to the point where I knew what my body needs to do. I can’t legislate for crazy injuries, like my shoulder.

“It’s not going to affect me.”

Elliott has scored three goals in the Championship this season but has started only 16 of the 35 fixtures he has been in the Lions’ matchday squad.

He would have got his fourth of the campaign if John Egan had not used his hand to save his header on the line at Sheffield United on Saturday.

Although Egan saw red, Ben Marshall struck the bar with his penalty.

Elliott was then denied by Dean Henderson in the fifth minute of injury time but this time Jake Cooper was there to head the rebound home.

“I was gutted [about Egan’s foul play] because I’m a striker and I wanted to score,” said Elliott. “I knew it would be a straight red. He’s taken a chance to punch it off the line and hoped that we miss the penalty.

“It almost worked for him, until we scored in the last minute.

“I didn’t get the goal but we got the point and it was a massive one, because a few of the other results didn’t go for us either.”

So how does he assess his own season? Elliott is listed as out of contract but the Lions have an option to extend his contract by a further 12 months.

“It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster,” he said. “I’ve played, not played, played – not played. It’s been up and down – a bit like last season.

“For myself, moving forward, I probably want a bit more consistency – in myself and playing football as well.

“That’s something I’ve got to look at this summer. I’ll take it from there.
Every player wants to be playing every week but, like I’ve said, every player needs to be performing every week.

“I’ve got to look at my consistency and where I’m going to get consistency, then take it from there really.

“I’m still contracted for next year. I’ll sit down with the gaffer and talk about next year. I’ll speak to my agent and my family – see what the best route is for Tom Elliott.

“I just want to enjoy the last five games of the season and hopefully we stay up.”

Enjoy seems a strange word to use when the drop heat is still warm enough to bring fans out in a sweat.

“If you don’t enjoy it then you’re not going to play your best,” said Elliott.
“You’ve got to vibe under the pressure – if you let it affect you then you’re going to crumble and we’re definitely going to get relegated.

“We need to stick together as a team and enjoy playing football.

“We’re in a strong position – we’re ahead of Rotherham and Wigan, who we’ve still got to play.

“Basically the ball is in our court. We’ve got the points at the moment and the game in hand. We can keep ourselves up or get ourselves relegated. It’s all down to what we do.

“We’ve had a lot of injuries. Last year we only had a couple – everyone was flying and fit.

“We need to stay in the league, regroup and then set our goals and targets.”

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