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'Walking, running, I couldn't do that for a long time' - Chelsea star Mjelde opens up on her eight month-long injury recovery

12:00 EAT 04/12/2021
Maren Mjelde Chelsea Women composite
The Norway international was stretchered off in the Blues' Continental Cup win in March, making her return last month in the Women's Champions League

‘When will you be back playing?’ It’s a question footballers hear a lot, whether they’ve got a slight knock or something more serious.

After suffering a knee injury in March, Maren Mjelde’s response for a while was simply: “I think I’ll have to be able to walk first!”

She laughs looking back now, having since made her return. Her substitute appearance for Chelsea against Servette in the Women’s Champions League last month marked 240 days since she was stretchered off with a knee injury, as the Blues beat Bristol City 6-0 in the Continental Cup final.

As Chelsea prepare for Sunday’s Women’s FA Cup final against Arsenal, she is not quite back at the level she’d like yet. Considering she is working her way back from her first serious injury, and was one of the first names on the teamsheet before it, that’s understandable. But she does at least 'feel a bit normal again'.

“This was totally different [to any injury I’ve had],” Mjelde tells GOAL. “Trying to do the basic things again, like walking, running, all of those things. I couldn't do them for a long time. I needed a lot of help and support and it really tested my patience as well.

“In the beginning, because everything was so new, I couldn't even walk, I attended the games, but I didn't want to be on the pitch.

“But then after a couple of months - especially the Champions League final [in May], because that's always something I've been dreaming about doing, and to be a part of it but still not be able to be on the pitch, that was, of course, hard.

When we celebrated winning the league, those type of things, I've always been on the pitch. It was a new situation. I shouldn't be saying that I'm used to it now, but at least now I feel I am getting closer to where I want to be. It was probably before summer, that was the hardest part for me.

“I think I was really good at seeing the reality and being realistic about my goals. I've been good at those things and trying to see the small positive things every day.

“That can be hard for me, because I'm used to doing all of these things and when I suddenly can't do them, you're like, 'This is so easy. It should be easy to walk. It should be easy to jump. It should be easy to run'.

"But when it isn't, then it's good to have people around you that see those small things every day and can tell you them, because it's not always easy to see them yourself.”

The list of team-mates Mjelde reels off as being integral to her support system is long, which says a lot about the togetherness at Chelsea. Guro Reiten, Fran Kirby, Beth England, Jess Carter and Ann-Katrin Berger all get a mention.

Her family were there when she could go home over the summer. Manager Emma Hayes believed in her and was there for 'anything'. And when everyone was away, there was always her dog, Simba.

“Me and him for walks every morning, then I did my training, came home, and there was him again,” the Norway international laughs. “At least I had him the whole summer when no one was here!”

Her return came last month, a whole eight months after the injury. Mjelde admits she doesn’t usually get nervous but was then – that was, until, she saw the face of Carter, who she was replacing.

“She was just smiling,” she recalls. “That gave me, like... 'This is fun. This is where I want to be’. When I saw how much it meant to her especially when she came off, it just gave me a lot of confidence to go out there and have fun.

“I enjoyed those minutes. It was just a big relief and probably one of the proudest moments of my career, to be honest.”

Speaking of career highlights, this weekend’s FA Cup final brings up another. The 2018 edition ended with Mjelde winning her first trophy, in what has since developed into a well-decorated career.

With 20 family members in the Wembley crowd – including her father, for whom she says that day 'was almost bigger for' after he grew up as a huge fan of English football – the defender describes it as 'the perfect day'.

On Sunday, she’ll be hoping for another triumph, once again against Arsenal. Uncertainties around Covid-19 mean not all of her biggest fans will flock to London this time, but many of her closest friends will still be there.

She won’t be a starter this time either, but that doesn’t mean that the player Hayes so often describes as 'the mother hen' doesn’t have an important role to play.

“I'm happy that I can try and help the team more than I was able to some months ago, because now it's easier for me to be around the team as well," she says.

“I feel I can give my advice. I can put myself in different situations and try to be there for those who need some help.

“I'm just trying to do what I can because I also really want to win every game, even though I'm not playing. I still have a job and a role in the team. That's new for me, but at the same time I'm learning from it as well, which is something I can develop as a player even though I'm not playing.”

What would it mean to help Chelsea win this trophy again then?

“It is probably one of the biggest trophies you can win. It would mean a lot,” she concludes.

“As a team, we want to win everything we're competing for and finals are the best part of it. It will be a good game and hopefully we can take the trophy back to Cobham.”