The big interview: Colchester United’s Doug Loft
Doug Loft emerged from the darkest period of his career, to finally return to the Colchester United starting line-up for the 1-1 draw at Morecambe on Easter Monday.
Luckless Loft had been out of action for eight months with a catalogue of injuries, before his brief outing as an 88th minute substitute on Good Friday, in the 1-1 home draw with already-promoted Doncaster Rovers.
Just 72 hours later, the Us midfielder was handed his first start, since the 2-0 defeat at Portsmouth on August 20, 2016, on the Lancashire coast at the Globe Arena due to Tom Lapslie’s absence with a shoulder injury.
“It got to a stage where I didn’t think I’d get out there again this season,” confessed Loft.
“If you’d spoken to me about three weeks or a month ago, then I’ve told you that that was my season done.
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“But I feel good now, and that I can play a part in all the remaining games.
“I couldn’t have got through this without the help of my family and everyone else, including the lads around me. They got me through what has been the hardest part of my career.
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“I had a tear in my Achilles, which I had been playing with for the last couple of years.
“But it got to a point where I couldn’t do it anymore, and then when I finally came back from that, I pulled my calf, so that was me out again.
“It’s been very disappointing but the boys have been good to get me through it.
“It’s certainly been the most frustrating season of my career. I have been desperate to get out there and it has been a very hard season for me.
“I probably haven’t trained as much as I would have liked, but I’ve been thrown in and I was happy with how I did.
“It’s just nice to be back,” added Loft.
Kent-born Loft, a recruit from Gillingham last summer, managed to play for 76 minutes at Morecambe, and seemed to have nursed the U’s towards a precious 1-0 away win, until Colchester old boy Michael Rose converted an 87th minute penalty for an equaliser.
At least the 30-year-old is now ready to play a big role in the U’s last three games, as John McGreal’s men attempt to overcome a two-point deficit to make the top seven.
“I felt all right out there. If I was 21, then I’d have been running around a lot more, but I just tried to use my head and sit in there, and keep things ticking,” continued Loft.
“I’m now looking forward to going again against (already promoted) Plymouth on Saturday.
“I’ve had setbacks along the way, over the last few months, it’s been very frustrating and I’ve been feeling very down, but I’ve kept trying.
“Now I’ve got myself into a position where I am probably in the best shape I’ve been in this season.
“I’ve had no problems and I’m looking to get in a few games before the end of the season.”
The U’s entertain Plymouth this Saturday – the Pilgrims wrapped up automatic promotion with a 6-1 thrashing of Newport on Easter Monday – before travelling to relegation-haunted Leyton Orient the following weekend, and then finishing the regular campaign at home to lower mid-table Yeovil.
Loft is convinced that the U’s will finish in the League Two play-offs, and go on to win promotion.
“We didn’t manage to hold out and get on the coach with three points against Morecambe. Everyone was gutted following the 1-1 draw, but we will go again,” insisted Loft.
“The situation hasn’t changed, in that we are still only two points adrift of the play-offs, and there is so much that can still happen.
“I’m confident with what we have got in the dressing room, and I’m confident what we can do.
“With the games we’ve got left, I’m very confident that we will get into the play-offs, but we’ve got to go out and do it and at Morecambe we failed to take an opportunity to step forward.
“There’s still plenty to come from us, and I believe we can do it.
“It could still be a good season for the club, even though for me it’s been very disappointing.
“I’m adamant in the games to come that I can show what I can do, and that I will have a big say in what we do this season, that’s what has been keeping me going these last few months.
“I don’t know how bad (Tom) Lapslie’s (shoulder) injury is, but I know what I can bring to the table and I am confident in my own ability.
“I know that we will do something good, and that I will be involved in that.
“I believe we will be at Wembley at the end of the, season and that I will have a big say in that game.”