The new Everton man spent over five years at St James’ Park having arrived there shortly after Benitez in summer 2016, remaining with Newcastle following the manager’s departure three years later.
Speaking about the reunion, manager Benitez said -
“We are happy to welcome Cristian to our medical department. He is someone who can help with the rehabilitation of players, a nice lad and an excellent professional.”
I’ve taken a look back to 2016 and the impact that Fernandez had on the Newcastle injury position.
Frankly, if you think that by Everton having long-term injuries to Jean Phillip Gbamin, Fabian Delph and repeat injuries to the likes of Yerry Mina, Andre Gomes and Seamus Coleman our situation was bad then let me assure you it pales into insignificance when you compare it to the Newcastle of 2015/16.
During that season largely prior to the arrival of Benitez and before the arrival of Fernandez, Newcastle had suffered a staggering 2,228 days lost due to injury! The squad had amassed 48 separate injuries 60% of which had worryingly been muscular or soft-tissue injury. The average “return to playing” time of those injured was also high at 48 days (a month and a half).
The introduction of Fernandez in the summer of 2016 saw a dramatic improvement in these statistics. By the time the medical team with Fernandez was totally embedded in the club’s structure, by the end of 2017/18, the Newcastle squad had suffered a much healthier 870 days lost to injury, just 29 separate injuries of which just 24% were soft-tissue injuries.
It’s acknowledged that, being a contact sport, there are bound to be knocks that you can do little about in terms of prevention. Soft-tissue injuries however are deemed by medical departments to be “avoidable”. These are ailments like muscular strains, pulls and tweaks to thigh, hamstring and calf. Sound familiar? It did to me and no doubt the same for Messrs Gbamin, Delph, Mina, Gomes and Coleman amongst others on the Blues’ playing staff.
The key things that led to the improvement at Newcastle were a focus on preparation and the right recovery processes being in place. The appointment yesterday therefore of Cristian Fernandez at Everton makes complete sense. The focus will clearly be on “rehabilitation” particularly with soft-tissue injuries as the job title suggests and bringing down those “player days lost” figures.
This season we have had 9 different players missing from our first team squad through a variety of injuries in just 10 competitive fixtures. Currently Richarlison, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Gomes and Delph remain out with injuries, with midfielder Abdoulaye Doucoure now expected to be out for nearly two months with a stress fracture.
Anything our latest recruit can do to improve rehabilitation so we do not see recurrences, improve recovery time, and to stabilise and manage long-term weaknesses will surely mean that Benitez has made yet another astute signing, one that will not necessarily show up in the scoresheet but likely to be just as impactful.