Vaz on the mend

Ricardo Vaz Te is determined not to let injury ruin his return to the Barclays Premier League.

The West Ham United winger had made an outstanding start to the 2012/13 campaign, only for his progress to be slowed by a dislocated shoulder suffered against Arsenal on 6 October.

Vaz Te, who had chalked up two assists and a goal in his opening seven league appearances, underwent keyhole surgery on Monday evening and has already begun his rehabilitation.

"I've got four weeks now during which there is not much I can do, so I just have to make sure I relax and look after myself," said the No12, who was in upbeat mood at Chadwell Heath this week despite having his right arm supported in a sling. "Basically, I was at Chadwell Heath until Friday and now I have a week off to either go home or simply to chill out and relax.

"Then I'll come back for two weeks and that completes the first four weeks, which are just steady recovery. After that, I will begin to increase my workload for the next six weeks.

"After that, the socket involved should be totally healed and only then can I push on. Until then, the work is mild and I just have to relax and make sure I get the movement back."

Vaz Te knows he will have to be patient as he recovers, having experienced an extended period on the sidelines with a serious knee ligament injury earlier in his career.

"I have learned from my experiences over the years, because I have had many injuries. The initial stage is the most important one because that is when the healing process starts. If you don't heal properly then you are never right and are always playing catch-up.

"I have to make sure I fully relax and let the socket and everything heal and only after that can I actually push. Overall, they have given me 12 weeks, but obviously if I can return earlier I will do but only if it is safe to do so."

Vaz Te's knee issues saw him make just three Premier League appearances during his final three seasons with Bolton Wanderers between 2007 and 2010.

After regaining his fitness and form, the winger fired West Ham back to the top-flight with a memorable npower Championship Play-Off final winner against Blackpool at Wembley in May this year. He is now determined to make up for those lost seasons by stamping his mark on the Barclays Premier League second time around.

Ricardo Vaz Te

"It was very painful. Any injury is devastating at any stage of your career but for me now I just have to concentrate on recovering properly and making sure that, when I get back, I am fully fit rather than halfway there and break down again.

"I did that in the past, so this time I have to make sure that when I do come back I make it count, rather than forcing it. It is frustrating because I have to put my plans on hold. I have got a lot of things I want to achieve, obviously.

"Football has moments when you have to take your opportunities and I felt like I was doing so. I was part of a great team, which we are, and now somebody else is going to get the chance. I wish the team well and I just have to make sure that I'm ready to challenge for my place again when I come back.

Vaz Te's rehabilitation has already been aided by the support he has received from his Hammers fans and team-mates, friends and family.

"The support has been overwhelming. Before, when I got my injuries, people didn't know about them and I always used to get blamed for not playing but I actually couldn't play.

"Now, it is great to know that they have the knowledge and the fans know that I can't do my work. It's not that I'm not trying my best or that I'm relaxing too much. Hopefully they will see me back to my best soon.

"One thing I have learned about this league is that it is such a hard physical challenge. I could have come back at 80 per cent after six or eight weeks without having an operation, but that wouldn't have been right. I would have been a liability to the team and I didn't want to do that. If I am on the pitch, I want to make it count. That is why I'd rather take a little extra time to come back stronger than before.

"My best friend is always around me and he's always making sure my frame of mind is in the right place. My family always support me, too.

"I have no reason to not be in the right frame of mind because everything is going perfectly, really. This injury slows me down a little in my plan but it's OK because it's part of football. I lost three years to injury before, so as long as I don't let it get me down and I see the bigger picture, I'll be fine.

"A friend of mine once said to me 'Every setback is an opportunity to make a greater comeback' so it's OK."