Liverpool FC’s Martin Kelly eyes long-awaited return（8.21 NEWS）
THE opening day of a new season is always eagerly anticipated but for Martin Kelly tomorrow’s game againstSunderlandat Anfield holds special significance.
Nearly six months ago the 21-year-old Academy graduate limped away from Upton Park disconsolately after tearing his hamstring.
The injury cruelly halted his progress and brought a premature end to the defender’s breakthrough campaign.
Since then he has embarked on a gruelling rehabilitation programme and has proved his fitness with some impressive displays in pre-season.
With Glen Johnson set to miss tomorrow’s clash with the Black Cats after straining his hamstring against Valencia last weekend, Kelly is likely to get the nod to start at right-back.
Kelly is taking nothing for granted but admits he would relish the prospect of making a long-awaited return to competitive action.
"With Glen getting a little knock I’m not sure what’s going to happen in terms of Saturday but I’m looking forward to the season and being part of this terrificLiverpoolsquad," Kelly said.
"After being out for so long it’s been great to play a full part in pre-season and I can’t wait for the season to start.
"I’m just happy to have stayed injury-free over the summer and hopefully with all the work I’ve done I can stay fit and enjoy a good year."
It was a devastating setback for Kelly when he pulled up during the Reds’ 1-3 defeat at West Ham in February. Initially he hoped to return to action inside six weeks but the injury took much longer to clear up.
Countless hours have been spent bulking up in the gym to ensure his body is able to support his powerful6ft3ins frame.
And the Whiston-born youngster, who grew up in Newton-le-Willows, has even taken up yoga to boost his chances of remaining on the pitch and off the treatment table.
"Initially I thought it was cramp in the game at West Ham but when I tried to get up I knew something was badly wrong," he said.
"The tear was so large because of the speed I was going. It was tough to deal with.
"I hoped to get back before the end of the season but the first rehab programme didn’t really work out.
"On the last day before I was due to resume full training I sprinted and felt a twinge in my hamstring. Another scan showed the injury had happened again.
"It was a setback and it meant I was put on a different programme and I had to work twice as hard to get back.
"It involved a lot more strengthening work around my hamstrings, calfs, quads and upper body. With the speed I go I needed more muscle.
"A few months ago I started doing yoga twice a week. At the start you wonder whether it’s really going to help but I’ve got into it.
"It’s hard work but I’ve really felt the benefits. It’s all about getting my body as strong as possible.
"A couple of days after each game now I get tested to make sure the strength hasn’t decreased. It’s about ensuring we stay on top of it."
Kelly graduated to Melwood from the Academy in the summer 2007 and was part of Gary Ablett’s title winning reserves side the following season.
Rafa Benitez handed him a debut in the Champions League against PSV Eindhoven in December 2008 and he went on to enjoy a successful loan spell with Huddersfield.
Kelly produced a man of the match performance on his first start againstLyonat Anfield in October 2009 but a groin injury kept him out for four months and on his return he was limited to two substitute appearances.
It was last season when Kelly’s Anfield career truly took off and after shining in the Europa League games under Roy Hodgson, he blossomed further under the guidance of Kenny Dalglish.
After Johnson had to pull out of the FA Cup tie at Old Trafford in January because h...