Middag: I finally feel like a proper West Ham player
When West Ham United take to the Rush Green Stadium pitch to play Reading on Sunday, each and every member of the team will do so with the sole purpose of getting a victory, and another three points.
For one though, just being able to step out onto the pitch at all is something worth cherishing.
There were doubts that Tessel Middag would ever be able to play football again when she sustained a second ACL injury last summer. The Dutch midfielder’s journey to becoming a West Ham player has been testing, gruelling and intricate.
I’m looking forward to playing Reading. I appreciate it every single time I step out onto the pitch, and hopefully there’s even more special days like this to come
Middag now admits appreciating playing football on a whole new level. It is simpler, more innocent.
“To be honest, I don’t think you could really explain it to a person who hasn’t been through a long-term injury,” she explained. “As players, we’re used to going out and training every single day, but if you haven’t been able to do it for a really long time then you appreciate it so much.
“Just going out and enjoying the team environment means so much. It gives you a different perspective when it comes to playing football. I’m just grateful every single time I step out onto the pitch.”
Middag was in the crowd when West Ham United defeated Reading in the FA Cup semi-final in April. Those special days, unforgettable events and historic occasions live long in the memory. But for her, it is the ordinary days that hold a special place in her soul. Every single day as a professional footballer is exceptional.
She added: “The main thing for me now is I’m fit again. Since the summer, I've finally felt like a proper West Ham player. It’s just amazing to be able to be on the pitch every single day and be out there with the team, and not have to be doing individual bits or working on my own in the gym. It’s amazing just to feel like a football player again. In that regard, I’m really happy.
“I’m looking forward to playing Reading. I appreciate it every single time I step out onto the pitch, and hopefully there’s even more special days like this to come.”
Tessel Middag is the cover star for this Sunday's West Ham United women’s Official Matchday Programme, available for just £2 at Rush Green Stadium! Grab your copy at the match this weekend!