Injuries force Reynolds to hang up his gloves
- Credit: Archant
When referee Lee Venamore blew the final whistle against Concord Rangers last month he wasn't just signalling the end of Lowestoft Town's promotion dream, he was ending a player's career.
It was the 70th minute of the Blues' fateful day at Crown Meadow with the match tensely poised at 1-1 when Andy Reynolds made the sort of clearance he's made thousands of times before in a Lowestoft shirt.
As the ball sailed into the Concord half many of 2,490 crowd that day would not have noticed the grimace etched across Reynolds' face.
A sharp pain in his left heel provided a reminder of what he knew already – at just 25 his playing career was over.
The ligament damage sustained was the straw that broke the camel's back for Reynolds, who had been pondering retirement for months last season.
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The physical demands of playing football from such an early age had taken its toll on Lowestoft's resident shot-stopper. Rather than play out the remaining two years of his contract with the Trawlerboys, Reynolds has decided to focus on his promising coaching career, crossing the bascule bridge to join Jamie Godbold at Kirkley & Pakefield.
'My body is not able to do what I want it to do as often as I want it to do it,' said Reynolds, who led Suffolk U16s to their first ever Boardman U16s Trophy last season. 'At best I probably managed three games in a row this year before picking up something niggly. If I can't do something properly then my personal standards wouldn't allow me to carry on and play 10-15 games a season here and there because it's not fair on the club, the players or the supporters.'
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The frustration for Lowestoft fans is that when able to take the field Reynolds has showed he is still among the top 'keepers in the division.
He single-handedly kept Lowestoft in the game during the first half at Bury towards the end of the season allowing the Blues to rally in the second half and preserve a point that helped secure second place in the division.
'In my mind I know that if I could shake off everything then I've got no doubt in my ability to be able to perform at this level,' he said. 'But I haven't been able to train fully and I know the likelihood of not picking up another injury seems a long way away.
'Rather than spend two years trying to play more games and do any long term damage to myself I would rather go out when I have put in a few performances that I hope people would remember me for.
'It wasn't a cut and dried decision but in the play-off final in the 70th minute I felt something go in my heel when I kicked the ball and that was a completely new injury. It almost cemented that decision which was made a few weeks beforehand.'
Reynolds can trace his injury woes back to his fondest memories in a Lowestoft shirt. Town's run to the FA Vase final in 2008 will live long in the memory for all connected to the Crown Meadow outfit. But there is a sidenote to their day out at Wembley that Reynolds has never quite recovered from.
'I think everything stems from when I had my major injury with my hip in the Vase run,' he revealed. 'In trying to get fit to play at Wembley I then probably didn't do the proper rehab at the time.
'The majority of my injuries come down my left hand side. My knee has been the major cause of lots of problems this year and then of course the ligaments in my heel in the final. It's a combination of various different injuries and the fact I keep picking them up is not normal for a 25-year-old.
'Although for a goalkeeper it is relatively young it's quite an unforgiving position in terms of the amount you throw yourself around and the demands on striking the ball as hard and far as you can.
'I suppose if you can't put in the consistent performances it's a very unforgiving position that costs goals and that's not what I want to be remembered for.'
Lowestoft have moved quickly in attempting to fill the large void left by Reynolds' departure, bringing in Will Viner from Thurrock to compete with youngster Jake Jessup for the number one jersey.
Reynolds has no worries that he isn't leaving the club in safe hands and hopes Jessup in particular can fulfil the promise he has shown since moving from Great Yarmouth Town two seasons ago.
'Jake has got a lot to learn but he has got the raw materials. If you were going to put someone as a senior goalkeeper who Jake could model himself on then potentially the club have now got that. Him and Viner are a similar size and have similar attributes. Jake could potentially take a lot from him that he couldn't have got from me, whose quite different and relies on very different attributes. He needs to grow as a person and understand that he will make a lot of mistakes on the way and not beat himself up about it.
'If he can learn from the all the experience he is getting then I've got no doubt that he will go on and play a lot higher than Lowestoft but that's for him to fulfil.'
– Read part two of Reynolds' interview, when he talks about his future at Kirkley & Pakefield, in next week's Journal.