Benefit match to aid Stowmarket Town’s Gareth Ward after career-ending injury
A BENEFIT match is taking place at Stowmarket Town on Sunday in aid of the club’s skipper after he suffered a career-ending injury.
Gareth Ward broke every bone in his right ankle and also suffered a dislocation in a Thurlow Nunn League Division One match at Newmarket on September 17.
The 31-year-old, who had just started his own roofing business but is currently unable to work, has now called time on his playing career.
Ward praised the “amazing” help he has received since the injury – at Stowmarket’s next match Whitton United’s players and supporters raised �35, while the Greens Meadow club are organising Sunday’s benefit match between the current team and a team of past Stowmarket players, which will include Ipswich Town legend John Wark.
Ward, who lives in Stowmarket with partner Amber and nine-month-old son Roman, said: “I can’t say thank-you enough to everybody for the help I have received.
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“Stowmarket Town have been amazing, raising money left, right and centre, helping me go through insurance forms and acquiring a wheelchair for me, while the players and management have been coming round bringing flowers for Amber.”
Ward recalled the moment that has ended his career: “I slid in with one foot to tackle their player and rolled over my leg. I looked down and saw my ankle had turned 90 degrees to the right.
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“It was the worst pain I have ever been in – that is until I woke up after the operation and thought I was still in the middle of the operation!”
Ward said the ambulance had arrived “within minutes” and he was taken to West Suffolk Hospital, where the dislocation was re-set. He was put in a cast for a week until the swelling had gone down before the ankle was operated on and screws inserted.
Ward has been recovering at home “sitting on the sofa annoying the missus” since the operation.
The central midfielder, who ‘retired’ before only to make a comeback and then re-join Stowmarket last season, said: “To be honest, I had been talking with my partner about stopping playing what with starting a new business and the baby. Because of that I have come to terms with not playing any more quicker than someone younger.”
Paddy Lillistone, who is the club’s commercial manager and also Ward’s granddad, said: “Obviously it’s a traumatic time for Gareth and the club at the moment and it would be nice to get as many players and spectators involved as possible.
“Gareth is well-regarded not only at our club but throughout the Thurlow Nunn League, and Whitton United’s gesture is testament to that.
“It was an innocuous tackle and no one was to blame. I have been watching football 50 years and it is the worst injury I have ever seen.
“Gareth has had an enormous amount of texts, emails and well wishers from Suffolk’s clubs.”
Sunday’s match at Greens Meadow kick-offs at 2.30pm and admission is �3.