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A fixture between Wolves and Fulham provided Michal Zyro with a major early highlight from what proved an altogether too fleeting Molineux career.  Despite seeing opportunity slip painfully away through no fault of his own, the affable Polish international still harbours happy memories of his time in WV1.

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Normally, after an away win, the scene in the visitors dressing room and around the tunnel is very much a loud and vibrant one.  Players buzzing, posing for pictures, chatting incessantly, full of vigour and verve.

Not on this occasion.

Back in April 2016, Wolves had just won 2-1 at MK Dons.

Coming back from conceding an early goal, quickfire responses from George Saville and Jack Price – his second and last goal for the club – made for an ultimately entertaining away win and a pleasant trip home for Wolves fans who will forever love and cherish an entertaining away win.

The result meant far more to MK Dons, threatened by relegation which is how their season eventually ended, than it did for Wolves, barely a few months away from Fosun’s takeover, and in a season where stability was the number one ambition after Steve Morgan had put the club up for sale.

Yet there was an air of doom and gloom which enveloped the visitors and not the hosts.  The Wolves dressing room, and sizeable concourse-like space surrounding it, was a quiet and sombre place.

And that was all because of the serious and career-threatening injury sustained by forward Michal Zyro.

Just before half time, Zyro, who, apart from a brief interruption due to a calf injury, had made a promising start to his Wolves career, was charging down the left hand side.

The ball was in the air around the halfway line, and, as Zyro knocked it on, defender Antony Kay delivered a crude challenge at speed with his studs catching the Wolves winger on his knee.

Zyro suffered damage to his cruciate and lateral knee ligaments, and a fracture to the inside of his knee.  Kay received a yellow card.

MK Dons boss Karl Robinson, who later took Zyro on loan to Charlton, contacted Wolves Head Coach Kenny Jackett to wish the player well in his recovery, and the MK Dons medical team kept in touch with their Molineux counterparts.

But Zyro never received an apology from the player concerned.

It’s an injury which has continued to cause him issues for the last seven-and-a-half years, and, less than a fortnight ago, he underwent minor surgery to remove some fluid which leaves him facing more rehabilitation with his current club, Wisla Krakow.

“Ever since that night I have had to do a lot of work to manage the knee, every single day, and still suffer from issues linked to that incident,” says Zyro.

“The fact it was just a yellow card, and that it wasn’t made anything bigger or looked into by the FA, is something which messes with my head to be honest.

“I could never have thought that I would get an injury which would affect me so much for so long afterwards.”

That was the worst of the worst for Zyro at Wolves. The beginning of the end, given it left him on the sidelines for almost 18 months and with too much to do when back in first team contention as Nuno’s extraordinary revolution took hold.

But if we go back to the beginning for Zyro at Molineux, there is a far more positive tale to tell.

His debut came in an FA Cup tie at West Ham’s former Boleyn Ground when they were in the Premier League and Wolves the Championship, a battling overall display denied a replay only by a late goal from Nikica Jelavic.

Then his league debut, and Molineux bow to boot, came against Wolves’ next opponents, Fulham.

Inside six minutes, he cushioned the ball down after a cross reached him inside the penalty area before a clinical finish.

After 13, he latched onto a pass over the top to outpace the Fulham defence, calmly slipping it past future Wolf, Andy Lonergan.

Two quickfire goals to quickly announce Zyro to his new fanbase.  In celebrating the second, he slowly fell to the floor.

He laughs at the memory.

“I still have that celebration as a Gif on my phone!”

Wolves won the game 3-2 thanks to a long-range third from Matt Doherty, and Zyro notched again next time out, although this time in a home defeat, 3-1 at the hands of Cardiff.

But then a first injury struck, a calf problem keeping him out for seven weeks, the four-capped senior Polish international putting it down to the quickfire change in environment.

Not so much the physical challenge or quality that was required – he arrived for £300,000 from a very good standard in Legia Warsaw in the Polish top-flight and had the strength and stature to succeed in the Championship.  It was more down to the time of year and his regular routine as he made the move at a time when the Polish League would normally have been taking a lengthy Winter break.

“I remember speaking to Kenny about coming to Wolves and travelling over a couple of days before New Year’s Eve,” Zyro recalls.

“That was something different for us because normally at that time of year, with the break in Poland, I would be on holidays!

“It was normally a period when I would rest, and so maybe my body wasn’t ready to play.

“It did start o-k, and I scored those goals, and I was confident and I knew the club wanted me and had paid a fair bit of money for me.

“There were no surprises, and I felt I could adapt to the tempo and the intensity, and I remembered some good games when we had beaten Celtic with Legia and I had scored.

“I was in good shape, but also maybe because I was normally on a break my body just wasn’t ready for what was coming – in holiday mode – and so I picked up that little injury.”

Having to squander a holiday and the chance to welcome in 2016 in more relaxing circumstances was never going to prevent Zyro from making the move to Molineux, and pursuing his dream of playing in England, and, ideally, the Premier League.

Growing up, with clear sporting prowess, his mother was keen on him playing tennis, and his dad, football. 

And so, three or four times a week, Zyro’s timetable after school would involve an hour of tennis and an hour of football before returning home to complete his schoolwork.

When the time came to make a choice, football won the day, and after several years with his hometown club KS Piaseczno, he was scouted by Legia Warsaw when he was representing the region in a cup competition, and he hopped on the first step of the professional ladder.

He would go on to amass over 150 appearances with Legia, scoring 27 goals, and being part of a team winning multiple honours in league and cups.

From there, and even at a time as Wolves were tightening the purse strings, it is little wonder that Jackett was keen to add him to his squad.

“To play for a big club like Legia Warsaw and develop with them was something I felt lucky to do, but then to make something bigger and join Wolves was a dream,” Zyro explains.

“In Poland we had the Canal+ television channel, so we watched the Premier League a lot, it was the most important programme in our house!

“Getting the chance to join such a big club as Wolves, with the potential to try and reach the Premier League, was part of that dream.”

That early injury initially stifled Zyro’s progress, before the far more serious setback suffered at MK Dons threatened not only his time at Wolves, but his career as a whole.

“I was fortunate to have a great surgeon in London to do the operation, but even he said I only had a 50 per cent chance to play football again,” Zyro reveals.

Wolves Head of Medical at the time – now Head of High Performance at Wolves – who was first on the scene at Stadium MK, was Phil Hayward.

“You can imagine for Michal and his wife Aleksandra, coming over to a new country and then picking up such a serious injury – they must have wondered what on earth was going on,” Hayward reflects.

“They were to some extent isolated, but I know that, as a staff, we did everything we could to try and look after them.

“Because of the extent of the damage to his knee, the surgeon told Michal he might not come back, but straight away, he had a really positive mindset and insisted that he would.

“As part of that, with everything that we asked him to do, he just got on with it.

“We would ask him to use the ice machine at certain times and for a certain amount of time and he was regimented in following that, he really looked after himself with his diet and was very professional in his approach – a model patient!

“I know he is very good at different sports and that includes swimming, and in the first few weeks of his rehab he did a lot of work in the pool.

“He set himself some tough challenges with swimming but that really motivated him and helped him in those early days.

“For some players who come to the club from overseas, it is easier for them to want to go and carry out their rehab back home, but Michal was extremely committed to everything at Wolves and bought into everything we were doing to try and help him, which was great.”

Meanwhile, staying in the country also gave Zyro the opportunity to see some of the sights, another key ingredient in helping him overcome the mental and physical elements of such a difficult challenge.

“The Wolves staff were amazing, especially Phil and the Doc (Matt Perry),” he says.

“The support I had was so important and I can’t thank them enough.

“Fans were great as well, social media wasn’t as big then as it is now, but I still had a lot of nice messages.

“I remember I worked a lot with Jordan Graham, who was in the same position with a long-term injury, and we made sure we pushed each other but also took care of each other on the mental side.

“While I was working on my rehab, I didn’t want to waste too much time sitting around so when I was able, myself and my wife did some travelling around England and also in Wales.

“It was good to get some experiences of life in the country, away from football, while I remember going to watch the FA Cup win at Liverpool, and also going to see a game at Old Trafford with my friends.

“It wasn’t just about the rehab work, it was about life, especially because it needed so much mental strength to get through the injury.

“I was quite young at the time and maybe I could have made more use of sports psychology because when I first started getting back playing, I was still a little bit scared.

“It took some time to get over what had happened and to take some knocks from defenders, especially in a situation which was similar to the incident.

“I am older now, and I understand more, and now I do work on my mental health especially as the knee can still cause me problems even now.”

There was plenty of blood, sweat and tears involved along the comeback trail. So many hours on the treatment table, in the gym, building up strength and stamina as his team-mates worked on the grass an agonising look out of the window away outside.

But come back Zyro did, first with behind-closed-doors training games, then reserve fixtures and pre-season friendlies before, some 505 days after being stretchered off at Stadium MK, he came off the bench in the 74th minute of a Carabao Cup tie away at Southampton, and within 13 minutes had set up Donovan Wilson to seal a 2-0 win.

He then started the following round’s victory against Bristol Rovers, but by this time the Nuno revolution was gathering pace and, for Zyro, unfortunately, that didn’t include him.

“I was so happy to get back out on the pitch at Southampton, and to be able to play again after having a 50 per cent chance,” he explains.

“But after that, I didn’t get too many chances, not just at Wolves but perhaps to show what I could do to other clubs as well.

“It is difficult as a player coming back from a really bad injury when there are new staff and new ambitions.

“The coach wanted his own players, and had money to spend, so it was almost like he could play Football Manager on the PC!

“It wasn’t for him to worry about individual players and how they were feeling, he was focused on promotion and making a success for the club.

“Of course, that is exactly what he did, which was great for Wolves, but for me, trying to get back involved, not so good!”

So, after just ten appearances for Wolves, including three goals, Zyro was on his way, initially on loan to Charlton under Robinson – scoring three goals in 13 – and then back on home soil with several ports of call in Poland, now with Wisla Krakow in the country’s second tier.

He made 29 appearances last season, notching four goals, but is currently on the sidelines after undergoing that minor surgery at the start of the month to remove fluid from his continuingly troublesome knee.

Whilst not yet ready to fully contemplate what might happen when he needs to hang up his boots – the 31-year-old already has property development interests and a liking for TV work –  he remains philosophical as to whether the damage sustained by injury will one day curtail his career.

“It has been a couple of weeks since I underwent small surgery and so I am working on my rehab, building up the muscles around the knee,” he explains.

“So much damage was done that day and the physios, the doctors, my friends, know how difficult it has been.

“We decided to have this surgery to try and finish the problem and get back to a situation where I can train every day without any issues.

“I am doing everything I can to come back stronger and we will have to see how it goes.

“Physically I am good, and mentally too, but the knee is the problem.”

A problem which originated through no fault of his own from his time at Wolves, but which hasn’t stained the memories of his time at Wolves.

Zyro has a positive attitude to life and to his profession that means he can look beyond his limited game time whilst at Molineux, and reflect more fully on the overall experience.

Just as important as recovering his fitness for football was also to make sure he can follow other pursuits when he has finished, particularly ski-ing with his family, Aleksandra and daughters Helena, five, and Pola, two.

And for that, the care and support he received during his darkest of days at Wolves is something he will never forget.

“Although I was injured for so long, I still have nice memories of my time at Wolves,” he insists.

“My first daughter Helena was actually born in Wolverhampton, which is obviously a wonderful memory that we have of my time.

“Wolverhampton will always be there, on my daughter’s passport, and so, I will always be thinking of this city, and this club.”