Alex Cochrane says his recent injury setback, that cut short his season-long loan to Royale Union Saint-Gilloise, has made him even hungrier to succeed when he returns to the pitch.
The 21-year-old left-back had made seven league appearances for the Belgian second division leaders, who are owned by Albion chairman Tony Bloom, before picking up an ankle injury and being ruled out for the rest of the season.
He said, “The injury was an unfortunate one, I landed awkwardly on my ankle and twisted it at the same time.
“I came back to England a week ago and had surgery straight away which has been very successful.
“The surgeon didn’t have to do as much as he thought, he has repaired the ruptured ligaments around my ankle. I’m in a plaster cast and aim to be back by the start of next season.
“It’s obviously very frustrating and part of football, but it’s a lot more positive than we originally thought after the initial scans.
“Now it’s a case of the road to recovery and working to get back on the pitch as soon as I can, while being wary of not rushing.
👏 Avant de débuter la rencontre face au Lierse, tout le groupe souhaitait bon courage à Alex Cochrane suite à sa blessure.— Royale Union Saint-Gilloise (@UnionStGilloise) February 7, 2021
👊 Courage Alex ! pic.twitter.com/Tmbl8CqHOv
“The lads wore t-shirts of support for me in the last game before I came back to England, that was a nice surprise when I went to watch.
“My time there had its ups and down, but it was a great experience and to be part of the team that looks like it’ll end the 48-year-wait to get into the top division in Belgium is a real privilege.”
Cochrane’s move to Belgium was his first taste of life away from Albion.
He spoke candidly about the challenges he faced both on and off the field during a global pandemic.
“It was a gamble because I didn’t know too much about the club or standard of football.
“At first it wasn’t easy; I spent the first few weeks finding out what was around me and driving on the other side of the road was a bit strange too.
“During those times you learn a lot about yourself and that’s where you become more mature as a player and find yourself as a person too.
“My family were on FaceTime and my girlfriend came and stayed with me for six weeks or so as well so that helped a lot. It was a test, but one that I enjoyed.
“I lived by myself in an apartment in a quiet town called Lier which is north of Brussels. It was about ten minutes from the training ground.
“It was quiet and remote, next to a canal and the town centre was a ten-minute walk away.
“It was ideal for me and I had everything I needed nearby. It was nice to learn more about yourself, but of course it was tough too.”
The defender only has positive things to say about his time at Union, and says his full focus is now on recovering and getting back to fitness in familiar surroundings.
“As soon as I stepped foot into the training ground, I felt like the lads warmed to me and they were easy to get on with.
“The pace of the game was a lot quicker than I anticipated. They were end-to-end matches quite a lot of time. The players are also very clever, they can draw fouls well and that’s the thing I learned quite a bit in terms of defending against that and positioning myself.
“I’m back in England with my family and my girlfriend is in our support bubble. It’s nice to be back with them and now it’s about recovering as well as I can, having had that senior experience it makes me want it so much more when I do get back to full fitness.”