JEAN-LOUIS AKPA AKPRO says Tranmere’s top of the league form is easing some of the personal frustration of dealing with the first long-term injury of his career.
The pacy French front man suffered a broken metatarsal in early October and is not expected to be back in the Rovers front line until the middle of January.
Akpa Akpro has not had to deal with such an extended layoff before, in a career covering spells on both sides of the Channel.
The fact that the 27-year-old was playing some of the best football of his life when he sustained the injury in a win at Notts County did not help.
But Ronnie Moore’s team have been able to keep the results rolling and hold onto pole position in League One in his absence – and that is making the pain easier to bear.
“Getting the injury was a massive disappointment because I had started the season so well,” said Akpa Akpro, who was the division’s joint leading goalscorer with seven strikes when he was forced onto the treatment table.
“It has not been so difficult to watch the games because the team are playing well. It is easier than if we are playing badly.
“I love to see the team winning because when I come back it is going to be easier for me.”
Akpa Akpro did not have the reputation of a prolific scorer when he joined Tranmere from relegated Rochdale during the summer.
But manager Moore was always confident he could help the fast Frenchman add more goals to his game and Akpa Akpro was matching hotshot Jake Cassidy strike for strike when the injury happened.
The pair developed an exciting partnership with Akpa Akpro’s speed and strength stretching opposing defences while Cassidy supplied workrate and deadly finishing.
Akpa Akpro said: “I have never had a long term injury like this before. I’m 27, so it was a long time coming. If it had happened when I was 22, I might have been crazy by this stage.
“But I’ve come to realise that football is about timing and opportunity. So I know I must be patient and wait for my time.”
Akpa Akpro’s career began with his hometown club Toulouse, where he played close to 50 games between 2003 and 2007. Following a loan spell with Stade Brestois 29 and a short excursion into Belgium with FC Brussels, Akpa Akpro decided to try his hand in England.
He secured a contract with Grimsby Town after a successful trial in the summer of 2008 and went on to play 60 games for the Mariners.
A move to Rochdale followed two years later.
Close to a half of the 83 appearances he made for Rochdale were as a substitute. Reluctant to drop down into League Two with Rochdale at the end of last season, he declined a new contract and responded to an invitation from Ronnie Moore to join Tranmere.
Akpa Akpro said: “I had a good feeling when I met the gaffer. Everything he said to me was good and I think he understood me when he saw me play.
“He said that for him I can be a striker. He understands I had not scored lots of goals, so he gets me to play striker and helps me with my development.
“Yes I think I have improved my game since I came here. If I score or not, I’m involved and I’m happy with that. I like the system we play here. It plays to my strength and it easy for me to play well.
“It was easy to settle in here and the team spirit is good. From the first day I arrived the people were friendly.”
Akpa Akpro had his foot in a special cast for many weeks following the injury. He knows the recovery can’t be rushed.
“I’m feeling quite good at the moment,” he said. “When I come back I have to show I can do well.”