Ollie Palmer believes that he has put his injury troubles behind him for the rest of the season and plans to help AFC Wimbledon rediscover their early season form.
The 29-year-old made his first start last Saturday in the first round of the FA Cup against Guiseley after returning from a grade two calf strain which had sidelined him since September 22.
Wimbledon had only lost one game in League One – prior to Palmer succumbing to injury – with the 4-3 win against Morecambe seeing Mark Robinson’s side only three points off top spot.
Since Palmer went for a scan following the 3-0 EFL Cup loss to Arsenal, where he came off in the 54th minute, the South Londoners have only won once in six league games and slipped to 17th.
Palmer, who scored the winner on Saturday, told the South London Press: “It’s been frustrating watching from the sidelines – it’s been a long six weeks. To be back fit and to score a goal on my first start back was a nice feeling.
“We fell down the table a little bit, and you feel like you have let the team down by not being able to help them, and you can only sit there and watch. It was a tough run, but now I’m back, and I’m going to focus on helping the team climb back up in the play-off positions that we were in.”
When Palmer’s injury was unearthed following the defeat at the Emirates, there was a suggestion from a handful of fans on social media that the forward’s desire to play through the pain, away at the three-time Premier League winners, did more damage than good.
“When you get a tear, normally you get a sharp pain,” he said. “I came off at Morecambe and I just felt a sharp cramp. It was sore.
“I still tried to get out on the pitch for the league game and tried to get out for the next game, which ended up being Arsenal – but that’s just me,
I did the same last season – I tried to play on when my hip was bad. I did that in the EFL Trophy game away at Bristol Rovers, and nobody said anything. I was in pain, and I tried to get through that game and then ended up being out for a month or two.
“The same happened at the back end of last season when I tore my oblique in my stomach at home to Rochdale. I played games after feeling like I was being stabbed in the stomach every time I did a sprint, a turn, or passed the ball, as you obviously can’t avoid that muscle in your stomach.
“After the Arsenal game, we decided it would probably be best to get the scan because I couldn’t shake it off, and I ended up finding out that I did have a tear in there.
“I have always tried to play through injuries – I have never once wanted to sit on the sidelines. When I was at Crawley, I played on a fractured ankle, and I was injecting it with local anaesthetic for three games.
“People are entitled to think what they think, but I know who I am, and I’m honest enough always just to want to try and get out there for the team, no matter what game or what competition.
“I’m not an injury-prone player. I have been unlucky here. I had the hip injury, which was a lengthy time out – it’s the only one I have really had. For the rest of my career, I have never really been out. Even with the broken ankle at Crawley, I was back within six weeks.
“I fully believe – 100 hundred per cent – that I won’t miss another game this season through injury. My hip is absolutely fine, and there is nothing else that will concern me.”
While he stands at a towering six-feet five inches and uses his frame to battle against League One defenders, Palmer’s first touch, link-up play and intelligent movement have become vital tools to Robinson’s style of play at Wimbledon.
“I don’t think it’s underrated by anyone who watches our games because people have seen me enough to know what I’m capable of,” said Palmer of his technical ability.
“But, you could argue that when I first came into the team under Robbo, I was surprising him each week. He had never seen me play before because I was injured, and he might have thought that I was just this big lump up top.
“But when I started doing some of the things I was doing in the games at the back end of last season, he kept saying: ‘I didn’t know you could do that,’ which is something that we laugh about.”
Discussing the differences between playing under Robinson to what he may have experienced under previous managers, the Epsom-born striker added: “It’s the freedom that we have to knock on the manager’s door to speak openly with him and the rest of the team.
“The way that we have our match analysis is very much player-led – everyone has to get involved and find a voice, even the younger lads. I wish I could almost go back 10 years in my career and start again under Robbo at Wimbledon.
“I do remind the lads that they don’t know how good they have got it here. Robbo is an amazing coach and manager – he gives players the freedom to express themselves, whether they’re 17 or 37.”
Palmer has Wimbledon DNA in his family history. The forward attended games at Selhurst Park with his father and his grandfather Tony Wright played for the Dons.
“I’m a local lad. My family members, my cousins and my godfather are all Wimbledon fans. The most frustrating thing is that this isn’t happening when I was 20, under this manager and playing for this club – you just want it to go on forever,” says Palmer.
“I’m very happy here. I know if I am playing, I will score goals. It happened at my previous clubs, and it happened when I was playing for Wimbledon at the end of last season.
“There are goals all around this team, and there are goal contributions from all the forward players with their fantastic ability.
“I want to get to that point where I’m playing 90 minutes, week in week out, in a winning team, and there is absolutely no reason why that won’t happen in the near future, and we will start climbing up the table.”
MAIN PICTURE: ROB AVIS
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