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'You do fear the worst' - Corry Evans on his horror injury and making up for lost time

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Northern Ireland's Corry Evans. Credit: David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press

Northern Ireland's Corry Evans. Credit: David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press

Northern Ireland's Corry Evans. Credit: David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press

Football was the furthest thing from his mind when Corry Evans couldn't recognise himself in the mirror.

The Blackburn and Northern Ireland star had been in a horrific collision with a high boot in a local derby with Preston in January and come off worse.

A fractured skull and shattered eye socket led many to fear for his footballing future but just three months on, Evans is back, intent on making up for lost time and has a fresh perspective on the heroic work of the health services now under strain from the pandemic.

The midfielder, who has 59 caps, said: "You do fear for the worst with an injury like that and it was really scary, but once I spoke to the surgeons, I felt reassured when they told me what they could do.

"The surgeons were quick to say it wasn't life or career threatening, and I was made to feel it was just broken bones and bones heal. Obviously, it would have been much worse if it had impacted on my brain, so I was lucky really.

"I was given the option of letting it heal naturally or go to theatre, where an op would build my features back up. The surgeons did a miraculous job and I can't thank them enough. They perform at such a high level day in, day out.

I didn't recognise myself when I looked in the mirror before the operation. It was so strange, with my eye socket smashed and my nose pushed back into my face

Evans was hit smack in the head by an accidental flailing boot from Preston skipper Tom Clarke and after a 10-minute delay while he got emergency treatment from medics, was stretchered off by concerned medical staff, while the 29-year-old's concerned wife, children, mum and dad watched in the Ewood Park stand.

"I was rushed to Blackburn Infirmary for initial scans and spent a couple of days there being observed," he added. "From there, I was transferred to Aintree University Hospital in Liverpool, who have a unit for head injuries. The treatment from start to finish was brilliant, including the aftercare on the NHS."

The six-hour surgery involved cutting his scalp from one ear to the other ear, then peeling his skin down to above his eyes before inserting metal plates.

Evans recalled: "I didn't recognise myself when I looked in the mirror before the operation. It was so strange, with my eye socket smashed and my nose pushed back into my face.

"All my features seemed to have caved in and you couldn't really see how the surgeons could put it all back together again, but now I feel back to normal and looking myself again."

I guess I am a reminder of the unbelievable work of skilled and highly-trained surgeons in this country

Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill briefly met Evans before Stoke's Championship fixture at Blackburn in February and joked that he looked better than he did before the injury.

"Yes, that's right," he laughed. "I have had a few cheeky comments, with some even asking if it was an excuse to have a facelift.

"I guess I am a reminder of the unbelievable work of skilled and highly-trained surgeons in this country."

As well as some humorous messages, Evans was touched by the outpouring of sympathy and well-wishes from people far and wide.

"There were so many messages," he continued. "Some were old school-friends getting in touch with my dad and other family members or through social media.

"When people hear it is a fractured skull, they fear the worst, so I am grateful for all the messages."

And a word for relieved fans back in Northern Ireland? "Obviously with the pandemic, we are all in this together and we must support the medics who are on the front line," he continued.

"I feel for the fans, especially those who had booked to go to Bosnia.

"We have to put this behind us before football can get back to normal. Hopefully that won't be too long down the road because everyone is missing it - I know I am certainly missing it."

Belfast Telegraph