Sainsbury pushes through pain for Asian Cup chance

Socceroos hopeful Trent Sainsbury admits he’s playing through pain at PEC Zwolle but is determined to do whatever it takes to be part of Australia’s Asian Cup squad.

Sainsbury was overlooked for Australia’s 30-man provisional World Cup squad after suffering a knee injury when he landed on a sprinkler on his Zwolle debut in February.

The 22-year-old played his first game in five months against PAOK on July 17, getting through 90 minutes, before playing 80 minutes against Hannover last weekend.

“I’m still in a fair bit of pain with my knee, but I’m trying to put it all in the past,” Sainsbury told FourFourTwo.

“I keep speaking to the doctors and they said as long as there’s not too much pain, you can keep pushing forward.”

The injury was originally expected to keep the central defender sidelined for a month, but the bone failed to heal as hoped, ruling him out for the remainder of the Eredivisie season and ultimately the World Cup.

Sainsbury spent time in Sydney during the off-season and managed to avoid knee surgery, before joining Zwolle in mid-June for pre-season.

He has also been handed the number three shirt at Zwolle, which combined with his recent game-time provides reason for positivity ahead of the Dutch Super Cup against Ajax on Sunday.

Despite the positive news, Sainsbury admitted he’s not over his knee issues, conceding he has daily pain from the injury.

“It’s a sharp pain in my knee every time I go to bend it. It pulls on all the muscle around my knee. It’s hard to explain.

“It’s in training, games, riding a bike, pretty much anything in day-to-day life, like going up and down stairs. I’ve learnt to live with it at the moment.”

Sainsbury said he preferred not to take painkillers to manage the injury and added that Zwolle medical staff had few solutions for him at this stage, although he would try shockwave therapy.

“To be honest I think everyone hasn’t done much work with my injury so they haven’t got much of a basis to go off,” he said.

“But they’ve said as long as I’m happy and able to bear it then full steam ahead. They’ve said there’s not much they can do in terms of treatment.”

Sainsbury makes no secret of his main goal for the 2014-15 season, representing Australia at the Asian Cup on home soil after experiencing the mental pain of missing out on the World Cup squad.

The former Central Coast Mariners man will need regular game-time at Zwolle to press his Socceroos case, but he’s desperate to be a part of the national team set-up.

“Seeing the boys over in Brazil was a good feeling for all Australians,” Sainsbury said. “But it definitely makes me a lot more hungry to get out there and be amongst it.”

Another potential complication to Sainsbury’s Asian Cup aspirations is the timing of the Dutch winter break, which concludes on January 17, the same date as Australia’s final group game.

“I haven’t paid much attention to the fixtures of everything, but I think I’d only miss a game or two if I made the Asian Cup,” he said.

“But I’ve got to make that squad first and be playing here first too, so I haven’t had that discussion yet.”

Sainsbury’s bid for game-time begins on Sunday against Ajax, before Zwolle kick off the Eredivisie season at home to Tommy Oar and Adam Sarota’s Utrecht on Friday August 8.

“There’s a bit of irony playing them first up as it’s the team I did my knee against,” Sainsbury said. “But I’m looking forward to it – hopefully I’ll face Tommy and Adam soon.

“I’ve been going pretty good in pre-season. I’m getting back into the swing of things.

“I’m trying to learn to speak Dutch to the boys on the pitch. It’s going to take time but I’m feeling more confident with more games under the belt.”