‘All we were concerned about was that he was okay’– Kirkley & Pakefield boss Mark Willis
- Credit: Nick Butcher
Kirkley & Pakefield have made an excellent start to the season in the Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division – but there have still been plenty of worries for boss Mark Willis, as CHRIS WISE reports
Having players unavailable due to injury or illness is all part of the job for a football manager, whatever level they are competing at.
But few would ever have had to cope with the sort problems Kirkley & Pakefield boss Mark Willis has had to deal with over the last couple of weeks.
There was a real shock to the system during a charity match at the club's 3G Arena arranged for his assistant James 'Huggy' Hutchinson, who is undergoing treatment for a brain tumour.
Regular right-back Matthew Wilson was among a big crowd watching the game before a league match against Long Melford later in the day - and there was genuine concern for his welfare when he collapsed to the ground.
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Fortunately the young defender came round and didn't require hospital treatment – but he remains uppermost in the thoughts of everyone connected with the club.
'It's not something you want to see – a 24-year-old lad going down like that clutching his chest,' said Willis. 'All we were concerned about was that he was okay, the match coming up later wasn't important.
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'He passed out and went to the ground and was very pale when he came round. An ambulance was called and he was checked over. He is okay but is still having tests. The good news is he is now back at work but we don't know when he will be available to play again.
'He is itching to get back but obviously we won't be taking any risks.'
Willis has also seen two of his players suffer out on the pitch, with separate clashes leaving first Jordan Haverson and then Lewis Hammond with broken noses.
A few hours after seeing one of his players collapse the boss could only look on from the sidelines in disbelief as Haverson was left with blood pouring from his face after a clash with the Long Melford keeper. After being treated on the pitch he required a trip to hospital where it was confirmed he had broken his nose in three places.
If that wasn't bad enough Hammond also went down clutching his face three days later in the Suffolk Premier Cup tie against Whitton United and also suffered a broken nose.
The bad luck continued in last Saturday's 2-2 draw at Haverhill Rovers, with Jack Herbert suffering a nasty facial injury in an incident that had the Royals appealing for a penalty and goalkeeper Adam Rix picking up a knock after diving bravely at the feet of a forward. Some welcome good news was that both men were able to complete the game after treatment.
It has hardly been the ideal preparation for Saturday's big Premier Division game at Walmer Road which pits fourth-placed Kirkley against second-placed Godmanchester Rovers (3pm) - but Willis is still looking forward to the match.
'We have got ourselves into a good position and this will be a good test for us,' he said.
'We have a tough run of games coming up, with a trip to Brantham following this one and then a home game against (leaders) Histon, and at the end of it we'll have a good idea of where we stand.'
Meanwhile, Saturday afternoon's match at Stowmarket will be a testing trip for Great Yarmouth Town joint managers Adam Mason and Martyn Sinclair in more ways than one.
A Bloaters side who are five points adrift at the bottom of the table after a run of seven straight league defeats face a side who are going well and currently lie fifth.
It is going to be a tough challenge for the players – but not nearly as tough as the challenge their managers will face beforehand. Mason and Sinclair are walking the 55 miles to the match to raise money for mental health charity Mind and will doubtless be hoping their players give them a timely lift when they get there.
Following their disappointing Norfolk Senior Cup exit at Thetford Town, Gorleston are back in league action when they visit Walsham le Willows who sit two places and four points above them and beat the Greens 3-0 in the reverse fixture at Emerald Park. They are unbeaten in their last five league games.
Thetford return to action with a home game against Brantham Athletic, while Norwich United, fresh from their excellent Norfolk senior Cup win at Wroxham a week ago, are at home to Haverhill Rovers. Wroxham travel to Whitton United.
In Division One, leaders Harleston host Felixstowe & Walton United Reserves.
Anyone wishing to support Adam Mason's and Martyn Sinclair's charity effort should visit https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/walk-to-an-away-game