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Alethea Paul on return from injury and illness

16 October 2019

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Sunday's 5-1 win at Crystal Palace marked Alethea Paul's 20th appearance since joining Sheffield United from Manchester City last summer.

The 21-year-old joined after winning a double at youth level in a successful City side and instantly became a first team regular under Carla Ward, scoring her first goal from the penalty spot at Bramall Lane just over 12 months ago.

But Paul's season later became interrupted by injuries and an illness over the summer ensured the attacking midfielder missed most of pre-season and is now playing catch up.

Paul returned to action against Coventry United and got another 20 minutes under her belt against Palace on Sunday and she's just relieved to be back after not playing for the first team since April.

"We've got nearly a brand new team so it's been really nice to be back in with the girls. The development side really helped me out with game time and I really appreciate that.

"Getting back on the pitch and getting the minutes I can now, I'm happy with how I've done so far."

Paul missed several games over the winter period as a succession of small injuries took their hold, but she returned to play 90 minutes against Manchester United in February.

Her final appearance came against London Bees in April when she had to be withdrawn after 24 minutes and a frustrating few months lay ahead for the youngster.

"In pre-season I was really ill. I was in hospital for a bit and now I'm just trying to get back and make up the time I lost in pre-season.

"I've had injuries before where I've been out for up to a year but an illness is different because you get to a point where you feel like you're ready to come back but your body hasn't recovered yet. I was wiped out for about three weeks in bed, that was hard knowing everyone else was back out on the training pitch. Physically I just couldn't do what I wanted to do and medically I wasn't allowed to do what I wanted to do."

Paul though took the sensible approach and worked her way back gradually to full fitness and played several games with United's development side to build her way back to a stage where she could complete full training sessions and play a full 90 minutes.

"I had to listen to my body but I'm glad I did because I built up my minutes with the development side. You can be really down because it's so different to an injury. With an illness you just have to wait. I felt tired after every session, my fitness just completely went. I struggled a lot, I couldn't even do gym sessions.

"The shakes were really bad. The headaches, the sleeping for hours on end. But eventually I felt a lot stronger, I could do weights again, I could run, then I'd play 2 minutes, half an hour, an hour."

The 21-year-old is now back to full fitness and after several games with the development side returned to first team action against Coventry United before the international break.

She nearly marked her second appearance of the season with a goal late on against Crystal Palace but was denied by a block from the defender, and Paul now says she actually feels fitter for what she's gone through and she looks to re-establish herself in the squad.

"I've been working hard a lot. I've worked on my diet, making sure I'm sleeping well and in a way it's taught me a lesson about how to fully recover."

Paul will be hoping to feature once again against Aston Villa as the Blades return to Continental Cup action looking to build on last month's stunning late win at Liverpool.

Paul's first goal for the club came against Villa at Bramall Lane, while she missed a penalty in the shootout against the same opposition in the FA Cup, but she's hoping to be involved again this weekend as the team goes to Boldmere for a fifth time in 14 months.

"I hope I can get some more minutes. Villa are very familiar to us now. We know how they play and they'll be battling for the same thing as us.

"The cup was really tough last year but this year with the group we're in it's really important. We want to get out of the group and do better than we did [last year]. Beating Liverpool was massive and it's given us a great chance, we're confident we can get out of the group."

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