Gareth Stewart Interview by Chris Sweet
Marek Stech can return from injury a better keeper than before breaking his hand, according to the man at Huish Park who knows him best.
The Czech Republic stopper faces three months on the sidelines after fracturing the little finger on his right hand in two places during the Sky Bet Championship clash with Birmingham City. The 23-year-old required an operation to re-align the bone and has now embarked on the road to fitness.
However, keeper coach Gareth Stewart – who replaced Stech against the Blues – revealed it will not be day after day of lower body slog in the gym, predicting the rehabilitation plan will see Stech improve as a footballer.
“Everybody knows what a good keeper Marek is and when you lose a keeper of his quality it is a big miss,” said Stewart. “But it happens and you’ve got to deal with it.
“My major concern with Marek is to make sure he knows what to do, make sure he is working hard to get himself back and to get back not just as good as he was but in fact better.
“We have now got time to focus on a few other things such as fitness and strengthening, making sure he can be in the best physical condition possible.
“We are hoping to get him out on the training ground with us as soon as we can, out with the keepers helping and focusing on different things that we need to do.
“Certainly kicking technique, all that sort of stuff, he can do without touching the ball with his hands. There’s a lot he can join in with, such as fitness drills and footwork drills.
“If we keep it structured hopefully he will be better than he was before. It’s not all doom and gloom, he won’t be entirely stuck in the gym, but he will have to go through that and he will have to work two or three times harder to make sure he’s okay.”
Stewart admitted a determination to “get on with it” against Birmingham soon replaced fears over the extent of Stech’s injury.
The arrival of Manchester United’s Sam Johnstone and free agent Chris Dunn meant Stewart was no longer required amongst the substitutes against Burnley.
He said: “Saturday was probably a unique situation where we’ve turned up to a game with two brand new keepers. I’m not sure I’ve heard of that before, it’s certainly very unusual.
“It will be interesting and is good fun for me now I have stepped back from playing to fully concentrate on coaching. I’m happy to work like this and it will be an interesting time and learning period for me.
“We’ve conceded three goals in two games that have been incredibly lucky. The second goal at Burnley was from a shot that was going wide but took a deflection and went in.
“The own goal a week before against Birmingham we all kind of played a part in but these three goals have lost us matches when at any other time they probably wouldn’t have been scored.
“It’s a positive that nobody is scoring easy goals against us and nobody is cutting us apart for 3-0, 4-0 or 5-0 wins. When that luck turns – and I’m 100 per cent absolutely certain it will – we will start doing what we know we can do and go back to winning games.”