Not many other than Luton skipper Sonny Bradley himself expected that he would be in the position to lead the team out at Kenilworth Road this evening for the first leg of the play-off semi-final against Huddersfield Town.
The 30-year-old has had one of the most unluckiest seasons when it comes to injury, as after contracting Covid when the pandemic started back in 2020, he then had it for a second time just before the campaign began, revealing he lost a stone in weight, eventually making it back for the 2-2 draw at Blackburn Rovers in September.
Finally fit enough to regain his place in the side once more on a permanent basis, Bradley played for the next three months, only to then require surgery on a double hernia following the 2-0 defeat at Sheffield United in January, somehow also managing to get Covid for a third time.
Complications after the operation saw the captain sidelined for almost three months and when he did finally get a break from injury, back for the 2-0 loss at Huddersfield last month, he was promptly sent off against Nottingham Forest, before to top things off, injured his ankle when making a routine back header in the 1-1 draw with Blackpool, seeing him facing yet another spell in the treatment room.
However, despite being told on numerous occasions that his campaign was up, a stubborn Bradley refused to accept that was the case, as he was back once more for the 1-0 win over Reading last weekend and has now set his sights on three more matches as Town look to reach the Premier League.
He said: “I don’t like to speak too much as an individual, I like to talk about the team, but as an individual, it's been a difficult season, and on at least three separate occasions I’ve been told that is the end of my season, I need to stop.
“For me that was in one ear and out the other as it's such a special season and I want to be part of it.
"I had Covid at the start of the season, it hit me worse than everybody at the club which was unfortunate for myself.
"I missed a good part of the season at the start and then I’ve had an operation on a sportsman’s hernia, both sides, and I thought I was only going to be out for a couple of weeks.
"I was recovering well, seven days into it, I got rushed into hospital.
"I had to have emergency surgery because my small intestine got stuck to the scarring from my operation, so that was a really scary time for me and that was another time in the season when I got told by the doctor, ‘look, you probably shouldn’t be playing again this season, you need a really good break.’
"I think any other season, if the season was finished and there wasn’t anything to play for, I might have taken that time to rest and recover, but this is a really, really special season for the football club and I know that myself as the captain, I can make a big difference.
"After the Blackpool game, I thought I might be done because of my ankle too, but we’ve got a tremendous physio department in Si (Simon Parsell), Chris (Phillips) and Darren (Cook).
"They work with us every day, they’re very, very professional in what they do and they’ve got boys back out there a lot quicker than what we should have been.
"We have got to thank them a lot and its been a bit of whirlwind as with that red card against Forest, everything seemed to be going again me.
"But what matters is that right now, I’m in a really strong position, physically I feel really good, and that’s come at a really good time in the season, so I’ve certainly got two, if not three games, left.
“I pride myself on keeping myself fit and making myself available for games.
"The last seven or eight years I’ve got a good record of being available, which I think is very important, but this season I’ve only played 19, 20 league games, which for me, is a little bit upsetting, because I want to play as much as I can, but it’s things that I haven’t been able to control.
“I’ve done my best to get as fit as I can, the manager said we can’t get any fitter now, which is probably true, but I’ve just got to take it for it is and throw everything at it.
"So that’s the attitude that I’ve got now, the mentality that I’m going to have for the rest of the season.
"The rest of the boys feel exactly the same way, so put all that together and I think it’s a recipe for success.
"For me there’s no reason why we can’t win the next three games and become a Premier League club.”
It certainly has been a series of events that have been out of Bradley’s hands this term, in particular the problems he suffered post surgery in February on his double hernia.
Delving into more detail, the Town skipper revealed just how serious it was, making the fact that he is going into the play-off games even more remarkable, as he said: “At first, it seemed to go fine and I was recovering well.
“Then a week into my recovery, I wasn’t back in training yet, I was at home and my stomach started swelling up.
“I thought it was a little bit strange and I was at home on my own and, to be honest, I panicked a little bit because I was being sick, I couldn’t stop it and I didn’t know what to do.
“In the end, I felt myself passing out, I rang 111 at first, just to get some advice.
“In the back of my mind, I thought maybe I do need an ambulance, but I rang 111 to see if they had any advice for me.
“As soon as I told them my symptoms, they said, ‘we’re sending an ambulance for you immediately.’
“I left my front door open and before I knew it I was sat in the back of an ambulance and I was getting rushed to Milton Keynes Central Hospital.
“Within 24 hours, I was back under the knife getting more surgery.
"It was keyhole surgery again, which I’d had previously for the groin operation.
“They went back in there and had to separate my small intestine from the scarring of my first operation.
“Fingers crossed, touch wood, since then I’ve recovered and it’s been fine, but it was obviously a scary time for myself and my family.”
Even then Bradley refused to accept his season would be over, as he added: “The doctor said to me, ‘I understand how important your role is at the football club, but you’ve just had two major surgeries in eight days, so it’s important that you recover well and do it right’.
“I’ve done everything right, I’ve worked alongside the club doctor and the club physios.
"They’ve made sure that I’m not at any risk, so I’ve followed protocol in that regard.
“They more or less said to me, ‘your season should be done’, but it’s a massively important season, not only for myself, but for the football club as well.
“I’m back to full fitness now, luckily, I’ve got a smile on my face and I’m ready to go.
“Everything that’s happened to me this season, it’s just part of the story and part of the rollercoaster of this season.
“If we do get there to Wembley and do end up getting into the Premier League, it’s probably a story, personally, that I’ll be speaking about for the rest of my life.”