After an injury turned into a harrowing health scare Drew Talbot doesn’t know when he’ll play football again, but he has no doubt that he will.
The Chesterfield defender’s season has been such a nightmare that football didn’t even enter his mind for a particularly dark six week spell.
He believes it might all have began with a bad tackle in his second game of the season, at home to Aldershot.
“We don’t really know specifically, but if you remember the Aldershot game when we won 3-0 and I got absolutely poleaxed.
“I think that might have caused a little bit of damage in my knee, which I played through for 13 or 14 games afterwards.
“But we trained on the 3G before the Maidstone game and it just flared straight up, so I thought I needed to come off it and get it sorted out.”
Talbot was told by a surgeon he had an ‘old knee’ that needed cleaning up, with a fairly routine operation and an eight to 10 week recovery period.
That surgery appeared to go well, although the 32-year-old required injections to drain the knee.
Things then took a nasty turn.
“It was just after Christmas I went back to see the surgeon, in agony, not sleeping, waking up in the night, my knee was huge.
“I ended up having an infection, which is deadly, deadly serious.
“The fact that the infection was right in the middle of the knee joint made it so hard to treat.
“He tried to drain the knee. It was huge and he couldn’t get anything out, which he said wasn’t right.
“That was the Friday morning, the Friday night I had to be rushed into surgery to have a wash out. Two days later I had another wash out.
“It looked pretty good, the knee was coming down a bit, I was walking without my crutches and then six days later I was in a bad way.
“It wasn’t just my knee, I was ill.
“I had to go in again and they do a thing called a debridement and I’ve got an eight inch scar down the middle of my kneecap now.
“They open you up and take out pretty much everything that looks nasty or could harbour an infection.
“It made me seriously ill.”
Talbot was on an antibiotic drip that a surgeon compared to sending Domestos through his body.
Looking back at how serious things got, he feels fortunate to be walking at all, but the experience continues to take a toll.
“I was in hospital for 21 days, I had people come visit me and I don’t even remember them being there.
“I was really poorly.
“I class myself as being quite fortunate really, it could have been a lot, lot worse.
“You hear stories about infections and luckily it never came to that for me, which is a massive plus.
“In the end I’ve been very fortunate to still be walking.
“I went back to see the surgeon a couple of weeks ago and the infection was pretty much under control and he did say I’ve been seriously ill and had a very serious operation.
“That sank in a little bit.
“It dawned on me a little bit, I count my blessings.
“I’m on crutches at the minute, I’m struggling mentally, it’s tough.
“You go in for the surgery and think everything is going to be alright and then it turns into an absolute nightmare.”
The good news for the Spireites fan favourite is that his knee will get better, but not as quickly as he’d like.
“The surgeon has no doubt I’ll play football again, it’s just the fact that I’ve had this infection, that will slow everything down.
“You know what footballers are like, unless you’re given a timescale you’re never happy.
“At the minute I don’t know how long I’m going to be or where I’m going to be, that’s frustrating.
“I’m getting treatment, I’m down to one crutch and walking without it, but I can’t go more than 10 or 15 minutes.
“The knee is still really big, but it’s going to be, I had three serious surgeries in the space of six days.”
It’s been a tough time for the whole Talbot family.
Drew’s wife Charlotte has had to take time off work to ferry him around and he’s thankful for the support of his loved ones.
“I’ve got two young kids, it’s tough, it’s affected them. The last thing they want to see is their dad laid in hospital, practically see through. My face was grey.
“It’s not been a good time.
“I like to think I’m over that bit now and the only way I can go is up, but it’s been mentally testing for all of us.
“It’s been such a stressful time for Charlotte.
“I’m not one to depend on people, I’m very fortunate I’ve got such good friends and family around me that I can rely on them that much.”
With all of that going on, Talbot can be forgiven for letting the National League table slip from his priorities.
“Football hasn’t really entered my mind,” he said.
“I love playing football and I’ll play football again, there’s no doubt about that.
“It might sound really selfish but there were times I didn’t even look at results, it wasn’t about getting back football, it was about getting myself healthy.
“I’m trying not to see the lads that much because they’ve got a lot on, they’re in a transition again, things seem to be picking up which is great, but I’m just in a miserable mood all the time so it’s not great to be around them.
“I’ve found it extremely tough to see the lads, it’s jealousy. I can’t sit and watch football, it stresses me out because I can’t walk.
“To see people running or even walking their dogs, it might sound silly but it fills me with anger, it really drives me insane.
“I’ve gone from being so fit and healthy to having it all to play for.
“Football is just starting to become important again because I can see there’s a progression.”
Any footballer over the age of 30 can be quickly written off as ‘finished’ when injury strikes and it’s something Talbot has experienced before.
He can’t say when he’ll be back or even if he’ll play for his beloved Spireites again.
But he’s utterly convinced this is not the end of his career.
“That’s probably the hardest thing to take, not knowing how long it’s going to take.
“In the space of two weeks I could be flying, I just don’t know.
“There’s going to have to be meetings at the club. I don’t really know what’s going to happen, my contract is obviously up at the end of the year.
“The next three or four months are probably not going to be enjoyable.
“In a sense it’s football, it’s life, you’ve got to get on with it and not sulk about it.
“I’ve been written off before and proved them wrong, the more people write me off the better, it gives me more of an appetite to get back.
“I’ll not be giving up, that’s for sure.”