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Former Dundee United defender Lee Wilkie backs Tangerines kid Declan Glass to bounce back from surgery on ACL injury

Dundee United youngster Declan Glass in action against Queen of the South last season.
Dundee United youngster Declan Glass in action against Queen of the South last season.

Lee Wilkie believes he played his “most consistent football” after coming back from his first knee injury.

And the former Dundee United star has backed Declan Glass to do the same thing.

Tangerines youngster Glass has been ruled out for the season after suffering a knee injury while on loan at Partick Thistle.

The 20-year-old midfielder damaged his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in a friendly against Ayr United last month.

The United kid’s recovery after surgery has begun – a feeling ex-Dundee and Scotland man Wilkie knows all too well.

The giant centre-half was forced to retire in 2010 – aged just 29 – after knee injuries plagued an otherwise successful career.

It will be a long road back to action for Glass – but having passed along it himself, Wilkie is confident “wee Deco” can do it.

“You’re a bit tentative at first. I didn’t hurt my knee in a tackle so that wasn’t too much of an issue, it was more turning and changing direction at pace,” the 40-year-old said of his own injuries.

Former Dundee United defender and Evening Telegraph columnist Lee Wilkie.

“That really worried me because that’s how I did my knee all the time – suddenly going from one direction to another.

“It’s only natural to not want to put 100% into that when you’ve painfully hurt it like that – it’s really difficult.

“Deco will be out for a good few months of his career, no doubt. But what could make the difference a year down the line is going on loan again.

“That’s what happened to me. I was at United and struggling for form and fitness so I went to Ross County for a month and it was the best thing I could’ve ever done really.

“It catapulted me back into United’s first team almost instantly.

“He’ll probably feel he’s miles off it but a month or two playing regularly and getting back into good habits can make a big difference.

“He could quite easily come back and play at a good level. I probably played my most consistent football after having a few injuries and years out – it can definitely be done.

“You’ve got to manage it properly. I know wee Deco and he’s a good lad – I’m pretty sure he’ll work hard and that’s what he’s got to do in the next wee while.”

From his own experience, Wilkie believes one way to build self-belief post-recovery would be for Glass to tweak his game slightly.

He added: “He will get the confidence back but what he might need to do is change his style of play.

“I lost that little bit of sharpness and the ability to twist and turn exactly the same.

“The height I was and the size I was probably wasn’t great for a dodgy knee but the fact Deco’s smaller and a different type of player might help him.

Kilmarnock’s Alan Power competes with Declan Glass and Jamie Robson during a pre-season friendly.

“I generally think most players who’ve had a knee injury have to adapt a wee bit to how they play and use their brain.

“I don’t see him dropping and being a deeper player, he might just need to be a little bit cleverer when he’s on the ball and not get involved in certain things.

“He’s a dynamic, attacking and positive player – you don’t want to take that out of him, they’re his strengths.”

Physical rehabilitation aside, Wilkie insists the mental aspect of coming back will be another challenge – but one Glass will enjoy plenty of support while facing.

He commented: “If anything, the mental side will be the hardest thing for him.

“You can go and do your exercises in the gym, physio treatment and running – that’s pretty standard.

“The toughest thing, for me, with the mental side of it, was being out for so long and losing confidence in your knee.

“That takes a lot longer than you’d expect. You can get back to a level of fitness and you think: ‘That’s me OK,’ but it’s not, you’ve still got a huge bit to go.

“When he thinks he’s ready physically, he’ll then realise he’s miles off it. Most players are like that when they come back from a long-term injury.”

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