Bury Town’s Callum Kearns returning to action after injury
CALLUM Kearns can still vividly recall the moment when his burgeoning career was put on hold.
It was an FA Cup third qualifying round replay at Staines Town on Tuesday, October 12, 2010.
“I tried to play a one-two with Scowie (James Scowcroft) and as I passed him the ball I went to get it back and my knee popped loudly. I must have twisted it and it gave way.
“I knew straightaway I had done something serious. I thought I had broken the top of my knee as the pain was excruciating.
“They called an ambulance and I spent that night hospitalised in London,” he recalled.
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Although he didn’t realise it at the time, Callum had ruptured the cruciate ligament in his left knee.
It was a devastating blow to not only the silky-skilled midfielder, who had helped Bury Town win promotion as champions of the Zamaretto League Midlands Division in 2009/10 but also the club itself.
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Kearns, who had joined the Ram Meadow outfit half-way through the previous season, had arguably been their best player in their first season in the Premier Division up to that point.
The 23-year-old recalled: “I had to wait a week for my first operation, which was to repair a torn cartilage, only for the doctors to discover that it was completely ruptured.
“Once you have the reconstruction it should be nine to 12 months after that before you can play again, but I had to wait another five months for it to be done.
“I paid for the first operation to be carried out privately, but I could not afford the cost of the second one so I was placed on the NHS list and it took five months for a slot to become available, which was very frustrating.
“The operation was carried out in February, and I was happy to get it done and out of the way because I knew it was going to be a long process to return to full fitness, so the pressure lifted after the operation.
“I knew I then faced six to eight months of extremely hard work to get the strength back in the knee.
“I started running on the treadmill in August, and at the end of September I went on my first proper road run.”
Such a lengthy time out for any sportsman or woman inevitably leads to mental anxiety about not just when, but if they will ever return to their level of competition prior to sustaining the injury.
Kearns revealed: “Immediately after the injury I had the usual attention off everyone, but as time goes on everyone has to get on with their job and younger players come into the set-up and you feel very alone sitting in the stands watching and not being a part of it all.
“Football is a massive part of my life and a couple of months ago I had a setback and thought I was never going to play again at the level I had done.
“I never thought about quitting completely, although I might have considered it if I was not going to be able to play at this level again,” admitted Kearns.
His rehabilitation finally reached the stage where he was signed off by the medical experts to return to training, which is always a nerve-racking time for any badly-injured sportsman – akin to getting back on a bicycle after falling off for the first time.
“Three weeks ago I had my first full-on training session. I had my first 50-50 challenge with team-mate Kieran Leabon, and I just went in as though it was a normal tackle, and after that I was fine.”
Kearns said he plans to start playing again either just after Christmas or in early January, and that he will go out on loan somewhere or play for Ridgeons League Division One side Team Bury, who are the feeder team for Bury Town.
Time is now against him but he still harbours hopes of playing professionally, although Kearns is only too aware that he is a long way from fulfilling that ambition at the moment.
He is currently out of contract, although Bury Town will welcome him back with open arms and assuming all goes well there will be a new deal waiting to be signed in due course.
“I have to first get back into the groove of playing again and then have a good pre-season next season and try to push on and get back to how I was playing before I got the injury.
“The biggest frustration is that I felt as though I had arrived at that level and I felt really strong and determined that it was going to be my year, so it was a shame the injury happened at that particular time,” he added.
Trevor Collins, Bury Town’s director of football, said: “We appreciate it has been a very difficult time for Callum, but the way he has conducted himself during the last 12 months or so has been outstanding, and we are extremely proud of how hard he has worked, and he should be as well.
“We look forward to having him back because Bury Town are a better team with Callum in the side.”