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Daily Mirror
Daily Mirror
Beth Lindop

"I felt empty" - Everton's Nicoline Sorensen on ACL heartbreak and triumphant WSL return

It was September 2021 and Everton were just minutes away from claiming their first Women’s Super League victory of the season.

Substitute Nicoline Sorensen, who had entered the fray barely 15 minutes earlier, collapsed to the turf at Walton Hall Park after what looked like a pretty innocuous tussle with Birmingham City’s Rebecca Holloway.

The Dane was helped to her feet by Everton’s medical staff, and limped gingerly towards the dressing room as her team-mates ploughed on in pursuit of the three points. A stoppage time goal from Rikke Sevecke sealed a significant win for the Toffees but, for Sorensen, the result was quickly overshadowed by an even more significant marker in her football career.

“At the beginning I didn’t think about an ACL or any serious injury at all,” the winger told Mirror Football. “I thought it was maybe a hamstring or calf. Then some of the girls came in after the game and were saying ‘we’re here for you no matter what’ and I was like ‘what are you talking about, I’m back next week” I think that was the point I realised that something was up.”

A scan soon revealed that Sorensen had ruptured her anterior cruciate ligament - an injury that would see her sidelined for more than 14 months and miss out on the chance to represent Denmark at last summer’s Euros.

“I just felt so empty,” she said, “I’d never been injured before so I had no idea of what I was going to go through and I’m actually kind of happy I didn’t know what was coming at me.

“It was the worst feeling. I knew there was a chance I could get back for the Euros because it was nine months away but it became quite clear quite fast it wasn’t going to happen.”

Sorensen ruptured her ACL in the WSL clash against (Getty Images)

Sorensen’s road back to fitness was not an easy one. The 25-year-old had to undergo two surgeries, months of gruelling rehab and weeks of training before returning to the matchday squad against Arsenal in early December.

In that time, Everton, too, had plenty of adversity to contend with. Last season saw the dismissal of manager Willie Kirk and subsequently his successor Jean Luc-Vasseur before interim coach Chris Roberts guided the squad to a tenth-placed WSL finish.

The summer transfer window prompted a huge overhaul of personnel, with new boss Brian Sorensen overseeing the departure of nine players and the recruitment of ten new talents before September's deadline day. For Sorensen though, the focus was very much on getting back out onto the pitch as soon as possible.

“I think I was really good at taking it day by day,” she said. “It sounds really cliche but things were so bad at times that I couldn’t think further ahead than the next day.

Sorensen before the WSL clash against Tottenham (Everton FC via Getty Images)

"Even when I just had a little more flexion or a little more extension or I could lift a little bit more it felt so good that I was trying to celebrate that more than how far away I was from the end goal.”

The winger’s long-awaited return to action comes at a time where the issue of player welfare in the women’s game has been thrust into the spotlight. This season alone has seen a deluge of serious injuries in the WSL, with title contenders Arsenal having lost both Beth Mead and Vivianne Miedema to ruptured ACLs in the last month.

Chelsea boss Emma Hayes has been one of the most prominent voices to raise concerns about the increasing congestion in the women’s football calendar and with FIFA President Gianni Infantino having recently unveiled plans for a Women's Club World Cup, the potential for more injury disruption and player burnout looks a distinct possibility.

Reflecting on the increase in serious injuries in the WSL, Sorensen said: “Of course it’s something we think about and that’s the way that women’s football goes. We’re trying to optimise the surroundings and everything around us all the time.

“Unfortunately injuries are a part of sport and we really don’t want to see those horrible ACL injuries but it’s a fine balance. We’re playing more games than ever before, the intensity is increasing all the time and there’s so much going on in women’s football and I think it takes some time to adapt to that.

“I’m sure that all the different clubs around the world and the national teams are trying to do as much as they can to protect us but of course there is still some way to go because there are too many ACL injuries.”

Sorensen, though, will hope her injury woes are behind her. After making a bright cameo off the bench at Meadow Park, the Dane earned her first start in Everton’s recent WSL clash with Tottenham, assisting Katja Snoeijs as the Toffees stormed to a 3-0 victory at Brisbane Road.

Reflecting on her ambitions for the rest of the season, the winger said: “For me it’s just about getting back into the team. I’ve seen these games before Christmas almost as free games where the more minutes I get the better but I haven’t had major expectations for myself.

Sorensen back in action (Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images)

“I feel that coming back after Christmas it’s a fresh start. I can compete at the same level as all the other girls and I’m almost ready to play a full 90 minutes so I think that’s the real start for me. I’ll be trying to compete for a starting spot and then obviously the big goal for me is the World Cup next summer.”

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