Everton Ladies were given a boost recently after Claudia Walker stepped up her comeback from a hamstring injury.
The influential forward was hurt in a training game back in December and needed surgery, forcing her to miss the remainder of the season.
Walker still needs to continue rehabilitation before getting back out onto the pitch, but Spence and his players were given a lift by the sight of the forward once again kicking a ball during her sessions with physio Faye Suddart.
“It felt a bit strange but I think that’s because I was a bit too excited,” said Walker. “Faye was telling me to just kick it gently but I couldn’t help myself. Her touch needs a bit of work so I was happy I was better than her!
“I have testing usually every two weeks just to see where I am up to. If I’m improving on those then I’m happy because each step I take is getting me back to playing.
“The tests show the percentage of strength in each leg and the lesser the percentage, the more you can do. They also allow you to show what exercises are working and which ones aren’t as effective. You need to make sure the work you are doing is strengthening properly so if an exercise is no longer improving a certain area then you have to change it up.
“My test scores must have been good on Tuesday because Faye has gone off and grabbed a ball and let me use it.”
It has been a challenging time for Walker, who has been a key player for the Toffees since her arrival from Liverpool in February 2015.
This is the longest spell out she has had to contend with but while she has had to stay disciplined, she has plenty of support from Suddart and this latest step up is fuelling her desire to come back stronger.
“Being at home has been the most difficult,” added Walker. “We have a football net in the garden of the players’ house and I just want to be out there kicking a ball about in the sunshine. You can’t even go on a bike round or something like that because you’re on a set recovery plan. But you know it’s for the best in the long run.
“Faye has helped me a lot – but I don’t want to big her up too much because she’ll not let it go! I always tell her that I don’t like the work she has me doing but I know that I wouldn’t be as happy as I am at the moment without her. I know I definitely wouldn’t have progressed as much as I have because she keeps pushing me. Even when my test scores haven’t been as good or I’m struggling with an exercise, Faye will always be there supporting me.
“Every day I think about what I am going to do when I am back. I have a list of things I have picked up from watching the girls or other games on TV – it’s just little skills or things I need to remember to do when I’m back just so I make sure I am up to speed with them.
“I want to come back as sharp as possible can and fight for my place as soon as I can.”