By Richard Cawley
Lewis Page is ready to be pitched straight into Charlton’s Athletic’s final assault for the League One play-offs – after admitting his injury problems had him on the verge of tears.
The 21-year-old was signed from West Ham last January but only featured eight times before his season was ended prematurely after he ruptured his hamstring.
And Page endured setback after setback following that. But now the left-back has been back in full training for five weeks and played four matches for Jason Euell’s development side.
That is a timely boost for Addicks boss Karl Robinson with Jay Dasilva now ruled out for up to six weeks with an ankle injury suffered in Saturday’s 2-0 defeat to Shrewsbury Town.
“Jay has been very good this season and I’ve hoped I could be the back-up if he dropped out for any reason,” explained Page. “The gaffer has said he wants me to be fully fit, that could mean a couple more under-23 games, but I feel like I’m ready.
“It’s the manager’s decision, isn’t it? We’ll see how the next month pans out. There are quite a lot of games and if some of them are called off then it becomes a congested period. People can’t play 90 minutes three times a week.
“I’ve played 45 minutes, 60 minutes and two 90 minutes. I’d say I’m pretty much fully fit. I’m just waiting for my chance.
“My last first-team game was March. It’s been a year out.
“People say you still get paid and so these things are alright but that’s not the reason I do it. I want to play football and fulfil my dream. It’s hard seeing that taken away from you at a young age.
“Hopefully I will come back better than I was. I came off injured in three of my matches here and for the other five I was carrying the hamstring problem – I never really felt I could play to my full potential. I wasn’t even running properly but I wanted to play so much and prove myself. I ended up doing more damage than good.
“I’ve had a hell of a lot of time to learn from that.
“It has been the most frustrating year of my life, not just my career. It has been a bit depressing at times – when you are coming back to full fitness and you get taken away from it again. That has happened three times. It’s not just been an extra week added onto my time out, it’s literally been months.
“You only realise what you have got when you have not got it.”
Page has thanked Charlton medical staff and family for their support.
“Adam Coe [physiotherapist] has been great with me. Even though we’ve been together all day he would call me in the evening and give me a programme for the next day.
“He’s been a top guy, I can’t thank him enough.
“Ian Jones [strength and conditioning coach] has put a lot of time into me as well. If I’ve needed an extra scan, just to make sure it is all okay they have done it.
“Then it is my mum, dad and girlfriend Paige. I’ve come home down in the dumps, sometimes you feel like crying because you have been out so long. You can’t do much if you’re in a boot or your hamstring is tied up. You need to take your mind off it.”
Page came back after over eight months out and then had Achilles trouble.
“I thought it was tendonitis but I had a tear in it,” he said. “That put me back at least three or four months.
“I had an operation on my hamstring but then had an accident in the summer, I slipped in the bathroom while on holiday with my girlfriend in Dubai, and had to go back to the start after 12 weeks of rehab. I had hoped to be fit for the start of pre-season.
“I only fell a couple of feet, I didn’t even fall to the floor, and as I dragged my leg back in I just felt a pop. If that happens after a minor slip it was probably going to go again.”
Page’s season could still have a happy ending if he does come back into the first-team fold.
Charlton have games in hand on the teams above them, but dropped back out of the top six after Saturday’s reverse to second-placed Shrewsbury Town.
“We all want to get promoted and we’ve got a good chance of getting into the play-offs,” he said. “We have got a couple of injuries but there is no reason we can’t comfortably do that.
“A couple of times of late we have been 1-0 or 2-1 up and conceded goals in the last minutes. We’ve been solid up until then. It is about taking our chances when we get them, which is easier to say than do.”