A leading Irish League goalkeeper who was stabbed last month while protecting his sister has been assured that he will be able to resume his career before Christmas, despite fears that he would have to quit the game because of his injuries.
Portadown keeper Neil Armstrong had a scan at the Royal Victoria Hospital on Monday to assess the damage to his arm and chest, fearing that the injuries would end his long and distinguished career, which included 11 years with Glentoran and four with Crusaders.
“The news is good,” the 32-year-old told the Belfast Telegraph last night. “The healing process is going well and I’ll be able to start physiotherapy within a month or so and get back into training at Shamrock Park a few weeks later. I’m delighted. My chest and arm are still painful and I’ll need to rest up for another few weeks, but this has been a great boost for me and for my family.”
Armstrong, who lives in Lisburn with his wife Lynne and their children Louis and Taylor, was walking his sister home at Ballymacash near Lisburn during the early hours of the Sunday morning when the assault happened.
“It all came out of the blue,” he said. “I happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. A group appeared from a house party and started giving her verbal abuse. I told her to walk on and exchanged words with them. The next thing one of them produced a knife and stabbed me in the arm and chest. It was painful and very frightening.”
Armstrong, who works as a lorry driver, spent three days in hospital and underwent surgery. And when he was released he was unable to even move him arm. “But it has vastly improved and this is just the news I need,” he said. “I’ll work really hard at training and hope to get a few games under my belt by the turn of the year, with a view to having my contract renewed at the end of the season.”
Portadown manager Ronnie McFall said he was delighted at the news. “Neil is a model professional and I know he will work hard to get back to full fitness,” he added. “We were deeply shocked when we heard the news and it's great that no permanent damage has been done. It’s just what we wanted to hear.”
Meanwhile, police have confirmed that a 25-year-old man was arrested on Tuesday and released on bail to return for questioning. No charges have, so far, been made in connection with the incident.