Zoltan Gera, the ‘Magic Magyar’, needs no introduction to West Brom, Fulham and Hungarian fans. A player who is loved wherever he goes as a result of his mature and respectful attitude, determined nature to perform for his team and his never-fading loyalty and devotion for his club.
4 years ago, Gera left The Baggies as a popular fan favourite to play at a higher level with Fulham, having just won promotion with the club. The following 3 seasons saw him and his team-mates reach a top-ten finish in the Premier League and the Europa League Final, certainly a successful move from the club he loves.
At Fulham he developed an equally loving relationship with the fans, but as his age increased and fitness declined, there was to be no renewal of his contract. The great Hungarian looked to be teetering out of Premier League football, an unfitting and unjust way to end a fantastic career. Then the opportunity arose, West Brom, managed by Roy Hodgson who coached Gera through his most prominent period at Fulham, offered him a way back into football. A combination of Hodgson and West Brom, the match was perfect, the timing was perfect, it appeared written in the stars; meant to be.
It was just then, when it was all going smoothly, that disaster struck. An ankle injury which brought a constant recurrence and ultimately, major surgery. His return was not to arrive for 3 months, a drawn out wait which denied him the dream comeback, however the drama was only starting.
His chance finally came, but in only his second appearance, a turn with little immediate danger proved season-ending. The anterior ligament in his knee ruptured, the worst injury. His season was over before it had begun, the fans were close to tears and the heads dropped. There was no guarantee he would ever sufficiently recover, his perfect moment was slipping away from him. It was to test his character, determination and physical capabilities to the absolute maximum, the challenge was to prove he could comeback still able to produce at the highest level, a tall order for a man near his mid-30s.
Months of rehabilitation, a summer with no break but an intense exercise plan, the work never stopped for him. Gera reported for pre-season with one aim; to play again for his beloved Baggies. He never gave up, everyday was 120% from the man, not accepting the possibility that he may be finished. He was not to be denied his dream.
Saturday August 18th, opening day of the season, West Brom hosting Liverpool and his name is on the team sheet from the start. All his hard work, all the disappointment, his love for the fans and the club drove him forward and presented him with a chance he would not have believed would come. A volley on the edge of the area which he would just not waste; a clean strike of pure beauty rifles into the top corner to bring pandemonium to the stands. It was the fairy tale moment he deserved, every fan on their feet screaming with joy and singing his name. It was all for him and no-one had earned it more.
It was only justice for the player, and teaches us an important lesson. With determination and will power, no matter how bad things can get, don’t give up and you can get your reward, your own edge-of-the-area volley.
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