Upon receiving confirmation that defensive midfielder Adlene Guedioura had broken his leg over the weekend, Wolverhampton Wanderers manager Mick McCarthy did not beat about the bush: “It’s terribly disappointing news, both for the player and the club.” It is a desperate blow for the unfortunate Algeria international, whose rise since joining the Midlands club has been very impressive.
It was in challenging Aston Villa’s Steve Sidwell for the ball during the closing minutes of Sunday’s derby at Molineux that the injury occurred. Guedioura, who had just come on as a substitute, will likely be sidelined for four to six months with a fractured tibia.
Not one to hold a grudge, the 24-year-old’s reaction via the club’s website was good-natured and mature: “I can’t hold it against Steve - he was just trying to play the ball. I swear I’ll come back as quickly as I can. I think I’ll be stronger mentally and I’ll work hard physically."
My style has earned me the nickname 'The Classy Bull' from Wolves supporters, and I must admit that I love it.
Prior to the weekend setback, Guedioura had chatted about his recent progress in an interview with FIFA.com. He did not shy away from discussing the discreet nature of his career path up to his joining Wolves last season. The clubs that have benefitted from his services thus far - namely Sedan, Noisy-le-Sec, Entente, Creteil, Kortrijk and Charleroi – would certainly be categorised by most as modest.
“No-one in my peer group ever thought that I’d be a professional footballer one day,” he said. “It’s not been easy – I’ve really had to knuckle down, without ever letting my head drop. But I’m happy to have put all that work in, because it made me stronger. Looking back, what I’ve learned is that when you’re climbing the ladder, you have to prove yourself every time you reach a higher rung.”
The La Roche-sur-Yon native’s first experience of mixing it with the big boys came last year, when he initially made the move from Belgian outfit Charleroi to Molineux on loan. And his dynamic style has enabled him to rapidly establish himself in Wolves' starting XI.
“I’m of Algerian descent, but I had the advantage of coming through the French system," said Guedioura. "It’s doubtless the reason that my game is not seen as typically north African. I tend to go looking for the ball when the opposition have it in their possession. But I also like to get forward and score the odd goal. My style has earned me the nickname 'The Classy Bull' from Wolves supporters, and I must admit that I love it!"
Like father, like son
Since becoming a Premier League regular, video clips showcasing his skills have begun to pop up all over the Internet. Guedioura is more often than not shown covering every blade of grass on the pitch, winning the ball cleanly and providing quick, useful passes to his attacking team-mates.
And it is these same qualities that continue to win over his coaches at both domestic and international level. Guedioura had only one U-21 appearance to his name when, in May of this year, Algeria coach Rabah Saadane included him in his final 23-man squad for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™.
“I took part in a little bit of history, being a member of one of the few Algerian teams to have made it to the World Cup finals. That’s something I’m very proud of. When I heard I’d been called up, I thought of my Dad straight away. He was also capped for Algeria, but never got the opportunity to play on such a grand stage.”
To thank his father for having ferried him to and from training throughout the years, Guedioura invited his parents to South Africa this summer so that they could watch their son perform in the flesh. He came off the substitutes’ bench in all three of his country’s group matches, but was unable to inspire his nation to victory.
“Playing England in Cape Town was an incredibly enjoyable experience," Guedioura said. "First, because I’d never seen such an amazing stadium. Second, because we held our own against one of the best teams in the world in an indescribable atmosphere. It was almost as good as a victory for us.”
I’d love to help my country to qualify for a second World Cup in a row. When you get a little taste of that sort of success, it just increases your hunger.
Having qualified for South Africa 2010, and having performed solidly at the tournament itself, Algeria have since struggled to find their form. Following a 2-1 friendly defeat by Gabon, Les Fennecs opened up their CAF Africa Cup of Nations 2012 qualifying campaign with a disappointing 1-1 home draw with Tanzania – a match which nevertheless saw Guedioura notch his first goal in an Algeria shirt.
“On the one hand, there’s the pressure of living up to our recent achievements," he said. "On the other hand, it’s time to move on from the World Cup and to focus on the future. We’re going through a transitional phase, but we’re still going to give it all that we’ve got. And looking at the talent at our disposal, I would say that I’m more confident than worried, really."
Saadane has since passed over the reins of the national team to Abdelhak Benchikha, a coach with a fine track record in north African football. Could this signal a change in fortune for the Desert Foxes? On this point, Guedioura was in no doubt: “Qualifying for the African Cup of Nations is a prerequisite.
"We’re going to have to be at our best. I even think we could go on and win the tournament. And I’d love to help my country to qualify for a second World Cup in a row. When you get a little taste of that sort of success, it just increases your hunger.”
Despite a full-leg cast which will likely keep him immobilised for the next four weeks, Guedioura is a player moving in an upward direction. In keeping with his nickname, he is bullish about his chances of playing again this season. Very few observers would bet against that happening.