'Old man' Sainsbury nearing full fitness

Socceroo defender Trent Sainsbury concedes inexperience led to his latest injury setback which forced him out of Australia’s latest match and heavily disrupted his pre-season.

Sainsbury only joined in full pre-season training at PEC Zwolle last week ahead of the opening weekend of the Eredivisie due to an ongoing back/hamstring issue.

The 23-year-old had to manage the complaint last season, particularly following national team duties and conceded the Asian Cup in January, where he was named in the team of the tournament, hardly helped.

The injury played a part in restricting Sainsbury to just 18 league appearances last term and forced him out of Australia’s World Cup qualifier against Kyrgyzstan in June. 

Zwolle’s scheduled season opener was postponed due to police strikes allowing Sainsbury extra time to get fit.

Although he will miss their midweek opener, the defender is targeting game time in Saturday’s clash with De Graafschap.

“It’s a whole body thing going on,” Sainsbury told FourFourTwo, jokingly adding: “I feel about 50 years old.

“It’s all going pretty well at the moment. I didn’t really have a finish date to when I’d be back but now we’re close."

The former Central Coast man was unavailable for selection at the 2014 World Cup due to a knee injury sustained on his Zwolle debut. His latest problem ensured he had learnt some lessons about managing his international commitments.

“I think it was a bit of inexperience with travelling with the national team and coming back and training on the astro pitch,” he said.

“It’s all taken it’s toll on me. I went into the Asian Cup and that didn’t help it at all. I’d been trying to manage until the off-season came.”

He added: “When I broke my kneecap I thought was going to be pretty long term.

“It took me a while to get over it and this is going to be the same. It’s all about strengthening and maintaining my hours on the pitch.”

Sainsbury added that he would make changes to the way he handles training around long-haul travel for national duty, which takes him all over the world.

“I need to rest up the day after travel and not try to be too ambitious and get back on the pitch straight away,” he said.

Sainsbury has been involved in a programme aimed at strengthening his core, back and glute areas in order to avoid further issues.

“I haven’t had a recurrence of the actual injury, just a few niggles which is to be expected with pre-season training,” he said.

The Western Australian product is also eyeing off next month’s qualifier against Bangladesh in his home city of Perth.

“That’s one of the ones I’ve had on my calendar for quite a while now,” he said.

For now, he’s focused on his injury and Zwolle, who have seen a number of key players leave this off-season, meaning expectations have lowered after two impressive campaigns.

Cruelly, Zwolle lost star man Mustafa Saymak to a season-ending injury a fortnight ago on the same day they sold key midfielder Jesper Drost to Groningen.

A fit Sainsbury may be afforded more opportunities too, with club legend defender Joost Broerse retiring, while Maikel van der Werff, who was a regular in defence last term, has left for Vitesse.

Zwolle have brought in defenders Dirk Marcellis from NAC Breda and Bart Schenkeveld from Heracles to ensure there’s plenty of competition.

“It’s everyone for themselves at the moment,” Sainsbury said. 

Zwolle’s Eredivisie season gets underway on Wednesday at home to SC Cambuur.