ASHINGTON defender Gareth Rees could make a dramatic return to football action as early as next season.
If he does – and he is well on course – the centre back will have trimmed a mere 12 months off his period of rehabilitation after a pre-Christmas operation.
The Blyth-born lynchpin, who lives in Stakeford, ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament and tore a cartilage playing six-a-side football with mates in the close season.
He was looking to keep fit having missed the end of the previous campaign after undergoing laser surgery on his eyes.
Following the operation in mid-December for anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction and a cartilage tidy up in his right knee at Wansbeck General Hospital, Rees was resigned to spending 12 to 18 months of rehabilitation before being able to kick a ball again.
However, at the current level of progress, the 32-year-old – a contracts manager for a specialist interior sub contractor in Cambois – could be back in action for the 2013-14 campaign.
“I’m seeing Mr Muller, the operating consultant, for another review this week,” he said Rees.
“I have stuck rigidly to the exercise programme and started light running in the physio class the week before last, but progress is going really well and has been so good that I could get back for pre-season training.
“The next part of my rehab is to continue with the NHS physio programme where I go to the hospital twice a week for two hours sessions then to commence pure physio where I would develop a programme to gradually build up my running.
“I’m obviously pleased with the progress, although I am taking one step at a time.
“I am looking forward to the running programme and returning to play football again.
“I have missed it massively – and not just the playing side of things but also the social part with the lads and the supporters.
“The physiotherapists have been impressed with my recovery and progress – and from my point of view, it has gone far better than what I expected.”
Ashington boss Gary Middleton said: “Gareth did a fantastic job for us last season.
“He had a great run and was a big part of the campaign, so for him to return earlier than anticipated would be a major boost.
“Our defensive record this term is not great so if we could get Gareth to return for pre-season training would be a massive bonus for the club – and we’d welcome him back with open arms.”
Ashington’s match at Penrith last weekend was postponed due to the weather.
This Saturday the Colliers are at home to South Shields, then on Wednesday, April 3, they travel to Norton & Stockton Ancients.