By Jan-Malte Wagener

Jimmy Smith says Harry Kewell was his guardian angel as he recovered from injury.

The Reds’ skipper, 30, played on to help his mates fight against relegation last term but could not sort his thigh problems with simple rehab over the summer.

The midfielder even tried to play in the first pre-season match this summer but Reds boss Kewell then put on the handbrake.

Smith told The Argus: “Over the summer I tried with rehab but after first pre-season game I spoke to the manager and we had a discussion.

“Thankfully he had an idea of me going to London (to a specialist). “I am grateful that he has done that because the people I was working with from 9am to 3pm every day for about a month made sure that my thigh would be strong again.”

Smith eventually made his comeback in Reds’ first victory of the season, at Swindon on August 26.

He convinced with a match-winning performance, scoring one goal and adding one assist.

Then came a full part in the 2-0 win over Yeovil.

Reds are now preparing for a test at Colchester on Saturday.

Smith added: “From the start of the season I’ve been in London with a specialist, working hard in every session every week and came back against Swindon.

“To score, get an assist and get three points was massive for me and for the team.

“Me, the gaffer and the fitness coach planned for me to play for 60 minutes but, during the game, he kept talking to me and I felt okay through the 90 minutes.”

Signs had not always been that good as Smith nearly had to face an operation.

He said: “We did go and see another doctor and he felt I might need an operation but the guy I was with in London felt just proper rehab, strengthening and taking a bit of time would help me to come back without an operation.

“If I did have an operation, I would have been out for about three months.”

Kewell is very pleased with his captain’s comeback. But the decision to finally let him play was not too easy.

The manager said: “We sat down and we spoke to the player, spoke to the medical staff and we agreed that it was a risk but it was a risk worth taking.

“He felt confident and as much as medical people or a coach or the greatest physios out there in the world may turn around and say, ‘This is a risk’, it is down to the player because only the player knows his body. “And you’ve got to trust the player. Once you go and pass those white lines there is no excuse.

“He’s got to take the responsibility and, if he puts himself and his team in danger, that is his decision. But he was confident enough in the way he was treated and in his rehab to go out there and to play 90 minutes.”