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Concord’s Tony Stokes has date set for double celebration
CONCORD captain Tony Stokes is hoping to be back in action by the end of October following his two-month injury lay-off.
The talismanic marksman was dealt a cruel blow on the eve of the season when a twisted knee in a friendly led to an operation for a cartilage tear.
But the 26-year-old has been working tirelessly on his carefully-constructed rehab programme and believes he could be available again in three weeks.
“It was absolutely gutting to get injured when I did, and I can’t wait to get back playing again now,” he said.
“For the past four months of last season I was struggling with a groin injury and I needed to rest it really, but I played on and put my body on the line to help get us promoted.
“And I feel like this has stopped my picking up my reward of playing in the Conference South with this team.
“So I can’t wait to pull on the armband again and lead the team out – I can’t wait to pick up my reward.”
Stokes, who led the side to promotion via the Ryman Premier play-offs in May, suffered a bucket tear of his knee cartilage while turning for the ball in midfield in a pre-season friendly with Billericay at the Aspect Arena, a fortnight before the start of the new campaign.
Since then he has followed a strict programme to regain fitness, with the speed of his recovery surprising his doctor.
He currently does ball-work with club physio Mike Hine on Tuesdays, specialist gym sessions with the club’s consultant chartered physiotherapist Ross Poyton on Thursdays, and then takes part in some gentle football drills before matches on Saturdays.
The only things he’s yet to do is full sprinting and striking through the ball, but he says he can feel himself closing in on a full recovery.
Stokes says his fellow, long-term injured team mates are also making great progress, with striker Harry Elmes (broken leg), and midfielders Nicky Cowley (knee operation) and Bradley Hamilton (broken foot), also benefiting from the care of the club’s medical team.
He said: “Once the four of us comeback into the side it really will be like four new signings.
“We always felt we could hold our own at this level, and from what I’ve seen so far I’d have to say that the teams are bigger and stronger but nothing we can’t compete with.
“You only have to look at Dover away, where nobody thought we’d take any points, and we came away with the win.
“The boys have made a great start. The main aim this season is to stay up, of course, but the sort of club we are means we’ll always strive for more.
“And with the players we’ve kept, the ones we’ve brought in, and the ones we have got coming back from injury, I don’t see why we can’t go for a top half finish. I think we’d be happy with that.”
Stokes’ injury forced Concord manager Danny Cowley back into the market for a striker ahead of the new season, and the boss pulled off a real coup by bringing in East Thurrock’s goal-machine, Sam Higgins.
Stokes said: “I’m really looking forward to playing with Higgo. For the last two seasons it has been him and me at the top of the scoring charts for local clubs, so hopefully that can continue at Concord.
“I think we can play really well together. I like to drop deep and link the play, and that will benefit the team and Sam because he’s great up top. It’s an exciting prospect.”
Stokes has targeted Friday for the all clear to return to first team action, a date which is very special to him for non-footballing reasons too.
He said: “That’s the day my baby boy is due, so it will all be happening around then!
“It’s something I can’t wait for and it will be a very special time in our lives.
“We do have a name in mind, but it’s top secret! One thing I can say is he will certainly be a little Beachboy.”