Since December, Steve Robinson has been undertaking a gruelling battle to return to the Lewes first team, following a nasty knee injury that has threatened to wipe out the second half of his season.
The talismanic skipper believes he is now close to a full recovery, and has targeted a return for the last three games – in a season that has seen the Rooks slip into relegation danger since his enforced lay-off.
The popular Lewes captain spoke to Brian Pollard this week about that injury, his long journey back to fitness, the frustrations of trying to help his team-mates from the sidelines and where he thinks the team has gone wrong in his absence.
Robinson was injured in what at the time seemed an innocuous incident, in the 6-3 win at Concord Rangers just 10 days before Christmas. It was a heartening win but one that would come at a significant cost.
“I’ve been injured since Christmas and (since then) have been trying to get back for the last few games of the season,” he said.
“I’m kind of on course for that; I’m looking to be involved for he last three games.
“It’s been a long process and has been as frustrating as hell.
“You can take your time (in returning) a little bit more if it’s a middle-of-the-table game (and the results don’t matter so much).
“But if you’re an influential player, which I see myself as, you can make the difference.”
Robinson spoke of the quandary of a player attempting to time his comeback from a serious injury. “It’s come back too quickly and I do it again, or I don’t come back and do we get points on the board?” he explained.
The Lewes management have spoken of Robinson’s positive impact in the dressing room during his enforced lay-off. He confirmed he has been trying to continue to offer advice to his less experienced team-mates during his time out of the first team, but admitted it was more of a challenge getting his words over from the dugout.
“As a captain I can put my point across quicker on the pitch,” he said.
“If you’re on the sidelines it’s not quite the same as when you’re out there. I have to tell someone else to tell them (the player).
“If you’re the captain on the pitch you can get your point across quicker, otherwise it can be 10 or 15 minutes before you can get your point across.”
But he was positive that Lewes can avoid the drop with a couple of wins – although he feels the Rooks wouldn’t be in the precarious position they are in now had he been in the team for the duration of the season.
“If we add six points we’re pretty much safe, I think.
“(But) if I had played we wouldn’t be (in this position); that’s no disrespect to the players who are currently playing at all – they’re a young side, they need a bit of experience to help them.
“Most of the other young sides (in the division) haven’t got much of a budget either. But those teams have been together longer and so are used to it.”
Robbo identified one area that has been costing Lewes dearly – and an area in which he believed he could have helped his colleagues had he been playing.
“Set pieces we have been quite weak at,” he said, “but it’s just because they are young. When I was young I was the same. I would switch off at set pieces.
“When I’m playing alongside younger players, I have to tell them and tell them (to be alert and to get into the right positions at set pieces).
“But Callum Donaghey has had an injury worse than my one.
“And Callum Dunne is another young player but is a very good talker; he’ll talk a lot (to team-mates) and makes a massive difference to the shape of the team.”
Speaking yesterday about the training regime he has undertaken in his attempt to retun to the team for those last three games, he said: “It’s just ball work now really.
“If I’m ok in the next four sessions – tonight (last night), Saturday, Tuesday, Thursday – then I’ll make myself available for selection for Saturday (April 20 against Harrow Borough).
“Obviously I won’t be able to jump straight back into the first team. I would love to but the difference between running work and being match fit is massive.
“You could run 10 marathons but you can only really get that (match fitness) by playing a game – and we haven’t got a reserves.”
But in a hint to a possible, brief, earlier return, he said: “If things go ok I can maybe nick five minutes on Saturday.”
Robinson said his experience in the game meant he ensured he had decent insurance cover to help aid any such comeback from injury.
“I got my operation as quickly as I could have,” he said.
“I was scanned in two days and was operated on in four days.
“It’s the ‘meniscus’ (a specific part of the cartilage in the knee) that had torn off the bone.
“The incident (that caused the injury) was innocuous really.
“I went over and couldn’t correct myself going over because someone was on the back of me.
“I couldn’t put weight on it and it blew up pretty quickly. I thought, this could be something horrible.
“At the time I knew it wasn’t right but I didn’t know for sure until I got my scan.
“(The specialist) originally said I might be back in early April but then he said he wanted it (the knee) stronger – so we were then looking at mid to late April. But he understands that I want to get back playing before the end of the season.
“I’m doing mid to short range passing and will be going onto longer range passing. I’m into the last stage of (the recovery).
“I’ve put the effort in to get back to fitness and to come back and help make a difference.”