DARREN Lough is on the verge of making a sensational comeback – only four and a half months after suffering an horrendous head injury which left him with a fractured skull.
The Ashington club captain is ready to answer the call should manager Gary Middleton require the full back to be in the squad which sets off on Friday for Saturday’s FA Carlsberg Vase fifth round tie against Shortwood United in Gloucestershire.
And if the Woodhorn Lane boss were to include Lough – who last season scooped both the Manager’s Player of the Year and Players’ Player of the Year awards – in the final 16, it would be the start of a monumental return for the ex-Newcastle United Reserves skipper who is in his second season with the Colliers.
Twenty-two-year-old Lough, a coach for the Newcastle United Foundation, sustained his horrific injury earlier in the campaign in an accidental collision with Vauxhall Motors full back Andy Taylor when the teams met at Woodhorn Lane in the FA Cup.
That was back on October 1 last year, with Lough, pictured, spending some time in hospital before being initially ruled out of football for six months.
But after a period of rehabilitation, the defender has viewed every Ashington match and has made outstanding progress in rebuilding his fitness – so much so that he is close to a call-up.
However, Lough, has showered praise on his colleagues and would prefer to maintain a watching brief at the moment.
“If the boss wants me to sit on the bench on Saturday then I will be happy to do so and will not hesitate,” he said.
“But if I’m not included then I won’t be disappointed because it is the current players who have got Ashington this far in the Vase.
“My fitness levels are really good and I’ve done quite a bit of work in the gym and more recently participated in all the training sessions with the rest of the players.
“I have done some heading with a softer ball which feels fine but I may have to think twice before getting back to heading the normal football.
“The hospital have been surprised at my progress and personally I’m over the moon.
“The lads have had a great season so far and it can still get better.
“We have pushed on enormously progress wise as a team of players and have a good bunch of lads at the club who work hard for each other.”
Lough has remained in a positive frame of mind since his injury and has constantly kept a smile on his face without becoming downhearted.
“I had a long term injury whilst I was at Newcastle United when I broke my ankle and was out for six months,” he said.
“So when this latest incident occurred, I was kind of aware of what I had to do, although it is different with a head injury.”
Ashington boss Gary Middleton said Lough certainly has an outside chance of being included in the team selection for Saturday’s game in Gloucestershire.
“Darren was captain for us and was an outstanding player and to have him so close to being back would be a massive boost for the club, the team, the staff and obviously the supporters,” he said.
“He has made big strides over the past couple of months and it would be great to have him involved.
“Saturday is the biggest game of the season for the club and we want as many players available as possible.”