Published: 00:00, 14 February 2019
It’s like pre-season again for me now.
I am 100% back to square one but Gary Hemens, the physio, is putting me through my paces.
Since I signed on loan from Sheffield United we have upped the rehab and Gaz has been brilliant – I’m in good hands.
My goal is to be back to face Oxford on March 9. If I achieve it I do, but if not, any games I do get, even if it’s three or four, will hopefully be a benefit to me and this club.
I did the injury in pre-season but went on loan to Oxford and played through the pain, thinking it was nothing. I was having prolotherapy injections and that allowed me to carry on playing.
I was training on a Friday, playing Saturday and being in agony all game, trying to get through it. Eventually I said ‘enough is enough’. I needed to know what the problem was.
Unfortunately Oxford decided to send me back. I thought I was going to play for the season, that is what I signed for, but they were paying money and there was no guarantee I was going to come back fit.
I found out just before Christmas what the injury problem was and had an injection to reduce the inflammation from the bulging discs in my back.
When Gillingham came knocking I said yes straight away and that I would come down and see what I could do. There is no guarantee I will be fit but if I do then hopefully they will have a good player on their hands.
Can I be back on the bench for that Oxford game? Can I be involved? That’s my goal.
The move here came about through Mark Byrne, who I was with at Barnet. We used to live together and we’ve been close ever since.
I told him that I had been sent back and was available. He had a word and the chairman here has been brilliant.
I am at an age where I need to play and I want to play. If I went back up there to Sheffield, away from my family, did rehab and then had no end goal I would be sat twiddling my thumbs, which I hate. It was a no-brainer to sign here.
Byrner has his wedding and stag-do in the summer so we will be spending a lot of time together. He is a great lad, a great player and it doesn’t surprise me he was player-of-the-season last year.
He is a good leader, a good voice in the dressing room and he gives everything. You need reliable players and we also have one of the best strikers in the league in Tom Eaves. If we don’t concede and can provide him those chances then I am sure we can climb out of trouble.
I have faced Gillingham loads of times throughout my career and have always enjoyed playing at Priestfield, I like it that the crowd are right on top of you and even though they used to give me stick hopefully they will get behind me now!
I look around the squad here and there are some talented young players who need to learn straight away what it is going to take to get us out of this situation. It’s just a shame I can’t be out there involved at the moment.
We had a team meeting on Monday and I felt like I wanted to say stuff but I am in no position, I haven’t even been on the training pitch, but that will come. I spoke to Byrner on Sunday night and said a few things that I thought he should say.
Any experience will help, it’s invaluable.
I was involved in relegation battles three years on the trot at Barnet. We had Martin Allen there twice, Edgar Davids, Paul Fairclough and Mark Stimson.
It was Stimmo who signed me from non-league, when I was at Chelmsford, and I owe him a great deal of gratitude for that. I think he is so unlucky as a manager, he could still be in the league, even as a coach, because his training sessions, his ideas and philosophy are brilliant. Yeah, he has a screw loose – but haven’t we all!
Martin came in and fixed us twice, it was down to him to keep us up, he changed the whole personality of the place, he gave us confidence and that is what he is brilliant at.
I am an attacking player but I don’t shy away from defensive duties. I think that is my non-league background, I have grafted to get where I am. I love to dribble with the ball, get bums off seats and excite people. I get tackled now and then and some would say I dive around a bit but that’s part and parcel, I’m an old-school winger and there aren’t many out there.
My career has progressed thankfully, from being released by Southend at 16 and then playing non-league at Chelmsford. There were good times there at Chelmsford but they did hold me back a bit. They turned down a few bids, Peterborough were one of them. I was enjoying it and wasn’t too bothered. I was working on a building site while at Chelmsford and when I eventually left for Barnet I had to take a pay cut.
My ultimate goal was to be a professional footballer, rather than being the best in non-league and thought of as a failure, with people saying, ‘well, you never quite made it,’
It was an easy decision and even at Barnet as a pro I used to work on Wednesdays to get some extra money.
Working doesn’t bother me, I’ve been used to it. It is tough when you’re filling a skip in the day and then going training, at night. I play with more of a smile on my face than I used to back then, probably because I was shattered from wheeling the barrow and building with the bricks!
More by this authorLuke Cawdell