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I almost lost the will for another battle with injury, admits Glentoran’s Willie Garrett


Glentoran's Willie Garrett (right)

Glentoran's Willie Garrett (right)

Stephen Hamilton/Inpho

Glentoran's Willie Garrett (right)

Long-serving Glentoran defender Willie Garrett admits he reckoned his playing days were over having been crippled by a knee injury for almost two years.

The 29-year-old has been forced into a spectator’s role under the renaissance of club owner Ali Pour in which manager Mick McDermott and his trusty lieutenant Paul ‘Windy’ Millar have rebuilt the east Belfast club into one of the Irish League’s major forces.

Having progressed from the club’s academy, which he joined in 2007, Garrett has sampled every emotion over the past decade, which culminated in a dramatic Irish Cup Final win over Portadown at The Oval in 2015.

But it has been all downhill ever since for the former Lisburn Distillery man. Little did he know when he sustained an injury against Cliftonville at Solitude shortly after that Cup win, his football days would be clinging for survival following many hours on the operating table.

After a nightmare period, Garrett is now raring to go. He may have missed Glentoran’s climb back to the top table, but he is eager to dine with the best when the season starts next month.

“There were many times it crossed my mind that I wouldn’t play again,” confesses Garrett, an official with the Ulster Bank.

“I had serious conversations with my surgeon — was it worth it? What state was my knee going to be in two, three, or five years down the line?

“I’ve no children at the moment, but obviously every dad wants to run about with their kids in the back garden, kicking the ball into the net. I didn’t know if would be possible a few years down the line.

“Everything was running through my head. But the surgeon reassured me, once we got to the problem, there would be no issues. Obviously, because I’ve a good job, I could have easily opted to just focus on my career, but I love playing football. I’m now grateful to have that option to still do that.

“I now plan to give it all I can in the years I’ve got left in me.”

Garrett admits he still has shivers recalling the past two years.

He adds: “My injury problems have been well documented. I think my last game for Glentoran was the Irish Cup Quarter-Final against Crusaders at The Oval, which was 2020.

“The problems began when I ruptured a cruciate ligament at Solitude. I was about seven months into my rehabilitation when the cruciate went again.

“Having made a recovery, I got a bit of a run with no issues, but then my knee began locking. It was back to the treatment table and, when the medical people had a look, they discovered there was a bone growth in the back on my knee, which was over a centimetre long.

“They thought by removing that it would solve the issues of the locking sensation. Having gone through 16 weeks of rehab, I got back into training and it locked again. It was back the drawing board.

“It emerged there was a medial tear and a problem with my lateral joints. They were able to repair that and, since that happened, it’s been great to be honest.”

Following his nightmare ordeal, Garrett admits he was overwhelmed when manager McDermott offered him a new deal to remain at The Oval.

“Initially, I was in the side when Mick and Windy first took over,” says Garrett. “I was with them for around six months and that was obviously a blessing because they knew of my capabilities and they knew what I could do.

“We were on a run of about 17 or 18 games unbeaten and I was involved in most of them, so they knew they could rely on me and I think that played a big part in Mick offering me a new deal. Once they knew I was fit, they knew I could do a job.

“Obviously I missed a lot of good times since they became involved, including the Irish Cup Final win over Ballymena United, but hopefully there are plenty of more big days up ahead.”

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