I came round after the operation and my mouth was so dry I couldn’t talk properly. I had a blinding headache and the feeling of nausea was brewing. I was numb down my left leg and I couldn’t move it. My Dad was sitting next to me and must have been nodding off. I was alone for the first time, I mean I felt empty in the pit of my stomach and mentally insecure. For the first time in 15 years I knew something was terribly wrong and then it all came flooding back. To this day it is as clear in my thoughts as the birth of my children.
It was a crisp January morning at Cheshunt (Spurs Training Ground). Twenty five minutes had passed in the first half and I was in the best run of form of my life - well on my way to signing apprenticeship forms. The ball was slowly running out towards the corner flag and I had put myself between the Centre-Half and the ball. Shielding it at walking pace I felt a nudge in my back and started to lose my balance. As I toppled forward I could feel more and more weight on my back. My body half-twisted and I fell over the top of the ball with the Centre-Half landing on top of me. I heard a snap then a crunch but did not take much notice so I naively stood up slowly and began to run off and then I was shot by a sniper. My left leg gave way and crumbled beneath me and then there was a pain so alien to me that I started to panic. The game immediately stopped and the first person to me was Peter Shreeves (Reserve Team Manager) who reassured me and called the Physio. He put an inflatable splint on my leg not before I noticed that below my knee was pointing in a different direction to normal. I wasn’t moved and an ambulance came on to the pitch to take me to Chase Farm Hospital (Enfield). On arrival I went in to a cubicle and had an injection in my quad to relieve the pain. It wasn’t enough so I had another. After about 10mins there were 4 white coats surrounding me, asking questions and examining my leg. My splint was carefully removed and the horror of my injury greeted me for the first time. This was not my leg. It was only recognisable because I still had on my football kit and I saw my white and blue Admiral Spurs sock ruffled down my shin. My eyes shot to my Dad and he did his best to conceal his fears but even he looked slightly pale. My patella knee-cap was more towards my thigh and my tibia and fibula were at right angles. The nurses washed me down and removed my muddy kit and then a doctor examined me and asked me to lift my leg. At the time I thought that if I could lift my leg I might have a chance of playing next Sunday and proceeded to attempt to achieve the impossible. How sad! but sometimes that naivety is refreshing. The nurses and doctors disappeared with Peter Shreeves and my Dad attempted nervous jokes. By now the shock was wearing off and pain started to kick in. Peter returned with the doctors and it was explained to my Dad that an operation was needed and Spurs were going to fly in their specialist surgeon from Holland in a few hours. Lastly, I remember laying on a trolley with a needle in my hand and being asked to count to ten and getting to three.
On Monday afternoon, Peter Shreeves and the then Spurs Manager, Keith Burkinshaw visited me with a basket of fruit, flowers and some Tottenham books. I felt like a superstar that the Managers would give time to a skinny kid in their busy schedule and make me feel so wanted. I grew ten foot tall in my bed with so much confidence but that confidence couldn’t be used where it mattered and that feeling didn’t return on a football pitch until much later in my career.
I remained in hospital and in traction for 2 weeks and then I was released to go home. My leg wasn’t in plaster but I had a heavy lead back slab running the length of my leg and then covered with layer upon layer of bandaging with my foot free. I wasn’t allowed to put any weight on the floor and I didn’t have any crutches so when I got home I was carried upstairs to my bed. My Mum propped my pillows and brought me my favourite cheese and pickle sandwich on crusty white and a cup of tea and suddenly as I blew the steam off my Typhoo I cottoned on to the fact that I was bed-bound.