Wojciech Szczesny insists he never doubted that he would play football again during his recovery from a freak accident that broke both his arms.
The precocious 20-year-old’s future in the game was thrown into doubt after losing balance while training in the Arsenal gym towards the end of 2008.
An intensive rehabilitation programme, which included a successful loan spell at Brentford, has helped the Pole recover and he is now Arsene Wenger’s second-choice goalkeeper behind compatriot Lukasz Fabianski.
Szczesny, who signed a new long-term contract last month, admits he found it hard to come back from such a devastating injury but insists he always knew he would make a full recovery.
“I was in the gym doing squats when I lost my balance and the weight fell on my hands and broke both of them. It was a little bit bizarre,” explained Szczesny, who made his Barclays English Premier League debut against Manchester United last week.
“There was actually a few people in the gym at the same time and they said they were about to laugh before they realised my arms were not quite straight.
“For four months I was not able to play football and it effected my whole life. I couldn’t do all the things that normal people do “I was very down at some points but I never had any doubts that I was going to recover from it. The belief that I was going to recover and be a good goalkeeper kept me going.”
Szczesny is likely to keep his place in the Arsenal starting line-up for the clash with title rivals Chelsea next week if Fabianski fails to recover from the hip injury that kept him out of the match at Old Trafford.
Should he do so, it will mark another big step for the Warsaw-born stopper and continue his remarkable turnaround.
“He knows what he wants,” said Wenger, who believes Szczesny has the fortitude to make it at the top level. “He arrived at a very young age and has gone through some difficult times.
“He broke his forearms. He did it two years ago after lifting some very heavy weights. The bar fell on both his arms, at the training ground in London Colney. He was out for six months. It was a worry – he has two big scars on each arm. He has metal plates.
“I have followed him since he has arrived here. In the youth team people spoke about him that he could save us games.
But he has come through those difficult times and has done well here.”
Szczesny, the son of former Poland international Maciej, joined Arsenal aged 16 following a brief spell at Legia Warsaw, where, somewhat ironically, he roomed with current team-mate and rival Fabianski.
The young goalkeeper penned a professional contract with the Gunners after turning 17 in 2007 and excelled through the ranks, becoming regular reserve goalkeeper during the 2008/09 campaign.
Szczesny honed his skills on loan at English League One outfit Brentford last season, performing heroics at Griffin Park that saw his receive a standing ovation at the end of his last game for the Bees.
“His performances suggest that he would not be out of place in the Championship or even the Premier League,” said Brentford manager Andy Scott. “It has reached the stage where when he lets in a goal we wonder why he hasn’t saved it.”
Such ability has seen him become an increasingly important member of the Arsenal first-team squad this season and saw him sign a new long-term contract with the club last month.
With his future secured, Szczesny can focus on establishing himself in the Arsenal team and putting behind the blows that threatened to derail his career.