Stalwart Webster says it has been tough being out of the Brewers side
AARON Webster has spoken about how tough he has found it not being a first-team regular at Burton Albion for the first time he can remember.
The club's longest-serving player, now in his 17th campaign, Webster has been beset by niggling injuries this season and has seen his left-back place taken by impressive summer signing Damien McCrory.
But Webster was back on Saturday, filling in impressively at centre-half for only his third start of the season as the Brewers pulled off an excellent 1-0 win away to Crewe Alexandra in the second round of the FA Cup.
The popular 32-year-old got the call because team captain Zander Diamond was suspended and Nathan Stanton was taken ill a couple of days before the game.
He and Marcus Holness formed an effective partnership to keep Crewe at bay – just as they had in keeping Coventry City goalless in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy tie earlier in the season.
Now Webster hopes he has done enough – and is fit enough – to force his way back into manager Gary Rowett's plans on a regular basis.
"It's been tough, very tough," he said.
"I was injured in pre-season, so I started behind Damo (McCrory). He's come more into it and he's doing even better now.
"I've had talks with Gaz (Rowett) while I've been injured and not been in favour and I've said I've found it weird just watching from the side.
"I've been used to playing every single game, Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday, being involved all the time.
"I've not had a consecutive run on the bench for years and it's not nice, watching the team you've played for and you love, where you've been for years and years.
"But you have to keep hope. It's tough to keep going but it's a long season and I came in from the dark at Crewe.
"Through injuries and not being involved, you have to have that glimmer of hope."
Webster had only just thrown off a hamstring problem when his chance arrived, after he came through a reserve game at Tranmere Rovers in midweek.
"I wouldn't have played if Nathan Stanton hadn't come down ill and Zander Diamond hadn't got sent off last week," he said.
"It's not fair on them but I'm happy to have had the chance.
"I was there to be called on and I suppose that's what you have to do in a big squad like this.
"The night before, I prepared as if I was going to play. I always prepare the same.
"In the morning, I was told Nathan wasn't coming and it's probably a good thing it didn't come to me as a surprise.
"I felt fine. In the reserve game, I played left-back and was bombing on.
"This was a different story. We came up against a Crewe team who like to pass the ball and try to move you around.
"Our game plan was not to be moved around.
"I think Marcus and I adjusted to that at centre-half. We were specifically told not to get sucked out of position and we didn't.
"We work well together. I'm left-footed, he's right and we can both jump and compete.
"We have another clean sheet together and, hopefully, we'll get another chance together.
"It was another great victory for Burton Albion in the FA Cup. I've been part of a few!"
Webster's performance drew praise from Rowett after the game.
"I thought Aaron did terrifically well, for saying he's only played one game (for the reserves) since he came back from injury," said the manager.
"I think it suits Aaron playing that way (at centre-half). He can stay tight, he doesn't have to chase people too much down the sides and what he does is read the game brilliantly.
"He heads things and he's composed on the ball."
While hoping that he has earned another chance, Webster acknowledges that it is easier to pick up injuries when you are not playing regularly and also that he has to have a different approach now that he is 32.
"When you're used to playing week in, week out, your body's naturally fit to play 90 minutes competitively," he said.
"But when there are not many reserve games and you're not in the team, it's easier to pick up a niggle.
"My body's not the same as it was when I was 17 or 18. On the mental side, you have to get used to that.
"Even at 32, I'm still learning my body. I've got to know what I can and can't do.
"Sometimes I'm still running round like I'm a young lad and that's probably why I've got injured now and then. Hopefully, I can stay injury free now."
And if he can, then there is always the target of Darren Stride's all-time appearances record for the club on the horizon.
"You'd have to say that's a long shot at the minute," smiled Webster.
"I'm keeping Stridey's record at the back of my mind for now."
SHEFFIELD United have recalled winger Jordan Chapell, who had begun the second month of a loan spell at Burton Albion and played in the FA Cup tie at Crewe, supplying the cross for Calvin Zola's winning goal.