Yesterday’s players’ barbecue in Barendrecht was Ebi Smolarek’s first appearance without crutches since his early June knee operation. The Pole is bang on schedule to get back to full fitness, with around eight weeks to go before he is expected to make a cautious comeback on the training pitch. Smolarek was in the Kuip Tuesday for the Feyenoord Team photo shoot.

bi experienced a dip last week while his teammates battled in the Alpen Cup in the Austrian Alps. The player’s knee continued to be warm to the touch, and that was a matter of concern to Smolarek. ‘It was worrying me, but they talked me round. According to the physio it’s quite normal. Some people experience a brief setback at the end of recovery process; others get it at the start. But I’m back on track again. I’m walking without crutches for the first time and I won’t need them anymore now. That’s real progress and a big boost.’ The latest edition of the club’s official newspaper ‘De Feyenoord Krant’ devotes four pages to Smolarek, who missed out on the World Cup due to injury, found himself in the middle of a doping nightmare and was then forced to go under the surgeon’s knife, all in the space of a few months. Everyone wishes him a much better time of it this season.

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