When Reno announced that he’d signed a 30+ goal a season striker for the 19/20 season in the form of Chris Almond, it was safe to say that goals would not be an issue but misfortune intervened. We caught up with Chris Almond to check in on his path back to playing for FC.
Hi Chris, how did you come to sign for FC United?
I finished the last season with Prescot Cables as the top scorer in the division (Chris won the Golden Boot for the Evo-Stik League West Division, having scored 25 times in League matches and the Integro League Cup, and rattled in 31 goals in 36 games in total) so it was a great season for me personally even though it was was frustrating that we just missed out on the play-offs. Brian was the manager and he’d agreed to join FC so after the season had finished he gave me a call and asked me about coming to FC, I knew Reno had been interested in me for a few years and had asked me about joining Bamber Bridge when he was the manager there, so it felt like a really good move, FC are a club that many non-league players want to play for, for many reasons. I’d kept myself in good shape over the season and so when I met up with the squad in pre-season I knew a few like Luke (Griffiths) and Jack (Lenehan) and all the other players seemed like a great group of lads so I was looking forward to a good season. The obviously there’s Brian, I was with him at Skelmersdale before I was Southport and Chorley, and I actually went to a school when he was a teacher there so I’ve known him for most of my life. Brian was a big part of coming to FC because we were flying at Skem when he was there and then he went to Prescot and they went from fighting relegation to being in the play-off final against Reno and Bamber Bridge so I knew FC would be going places.
Can you tell us about how the injury came about?
We met up for the first pre-season session which was brutal, I’d heard about Reno’s empasis on fitness and it was a tough mix of 1500m, 800m, 400m, 200m and 100m - and the other sessions didn’t really let up but I felt really good, the work I’d kept up over the summer had meant while it was hard it wasn’t anywhere near as bad as it could have been. It came to the fourth session though and my hamstring went a bit tight, with my experience I should have just felt my way through the session but we did a sprinting drill and I then felt my hamstring go, it was really frustrating as it meant I was going to miss the quite a few sessions plus the first few pre-season games.
I went down to Brighton which was a really good trip, a good laugh and a great way to bond with the lads but the whole time I was itching to get on and play. We got back and the Bangor 1876 game came along and it was 50/50 whether I would play or not, we had another friendly on the Tuesday and I was aiming for that but I spoke to Reno and I said my hammy felt good, and I was itching to get on, so we agreed that I’d come on for the last 20 minutes. I warmed up before the game and at half time and felt fine, so I came on as planned and with my first touch scored a tap in. Then shortly afterwards Craig Carney had played a ball through and I’m quite quick so I would normally drive through with the ball, but with my hamstring on my mind I thought I would play the ball out to someone who was making a run on the outside of me, so as the ball came to me I tried a Cruyff turn so that I could play them in but as I turned I heard a crack and felt my knee give way a little, I don’t know if my studs got caught in the ground or what, I’ve never had anything like it before. It didn’t hurt but as I jogged away I can only describe it as though the bottom half of my leg felt a bit loose and so I ended up coming off, got it iced and then after a couple of days it didn’t feel that sore. I’ve got lots of mates in football who’ve done their knees and ACL’s and they all said that they were in a huge amount of pain and they couldn’t move it properly for a while, but that wasn’t what I was getting, my knee eased up so it was sore but I could still go to work. I had a few tests and the symptoms all pointed to a torn meniscus which would require keyhole surgery and around six weeks recovery time before getting running again.
So when you went to get it scanned at the hospital what happened next?
So then I went for a scan and I presumed it would come back that it’d be a torn meniscus but during the time I was waiting for the scan results I was working and it gave way again, but this time it gave way and my knee locked so I couldn’t straighten my leg. Shortly after I got my results and it was a torn meniscus but I’d also completely snapped my ACL, so it meant it would be a lot longer. My knee had locked becase the torn meniscus had torn a bit more with me walking on it then folded over inside my knee so there was no space in the joint for my leg to straighten out and so it locked, known as a ’Bucket Handle’ meniscus tear.
That meant that my ACL surgery couldn’t be done until the meniscus was healed, so that needed to be operated on, then have three months of rehab on that, then the ACL reconstruction after that.
As you can imagine from the fans perspective you were a big miss, as is well documented FC lost their first three games, what was that like for you?
It was so frustrating not be be playing football when it’s something you’ve done all your life, but especially when you know you should be on the pitch contributing. I knew we’d have a good season because the pre-season had been so good, the Brighton trip really bonded the team together and so it was a shock to me that we didn’t take a point, especially with the performances we’d put in against teams from higher divisions, yes they’re friendlies but when you’re on the pitch no-one wants to lose.
I watched the Hyde game and the chances we created meant we should have won that game, I think every player likes to think they would have made a difference but we had so many great chances I really felt I could have got on the end of a few; obviously Tunde has come in and done fantastically with the service that Reno’s teams always provide to the front men.
So have you been keeping up with FC?
When I got injured I was self-employed and work in civil engineering so it’s quite a physical job, so I couldn’t actually earn any money for nearly ten weeks; I spent the time at home looking after our young kids and my partner had to get a second job in the evening to make up the shortfall, obviously I couldn’t come down to the midweek matches and it wasn’t fair to then come down at the weekends as she needed a rest. Every Saturday I’m following the clubs twitter feed and I’m getting twitchy as I’m waiting for FC to get the result, my partner wonders what’s up with me but football and or training Tuesday / Thursday / Saturday is all I’ve ever known. I am still in the players whatsapp group so i’m keeping up with it all, that can be hard sometimes when we’ve had a good result or they’re getting ready for a big game because I want to be in the thick of it.
Has the season being voided made things any easier for you knowing that you’re missing less football than you would have?
I can see why people would think that but on the other hand with how well the lads were doing I fancied us to go up through the play-offs, I really fancied us and it’s a bit gutting for us that we won’t get chance to see it through.
So what’s next for your recovery?
Well I had the meniscus sorted and so my ACL was due to be done in February, the recovery had gone to plan but then after speaking to my new employers they asked if I could put the op back a few weeks, they’d helped me out originally so I was happy to as repayment for their kindness, so we put it back to the end of March but after the pre-op and only a couple of days before the operation to reattach my ACL the Covid-19 crisis hit and they had to cancel the operation; I’m still waiting for the new operation date as there are more urgent cases than me needing medical support. As soon as I’ve had the op I’m looking at 6-9 months before I can play again, I’m doing some work to keep the muscles strong enough to help the recovery go as well as possible.
I love football and follow it constantly, I’ve been reading Reno’s review of the season and I’m so happy that Tunde has hit the ground running, though I like to remind him that I scored more than him last season - ha ha!
Manager Neil Reynolds added:
"Chris Almond is a player I have enjoyed watching for years, I wanted him at Bamber Bridge and when I was putting my team together to get bring the good times back to FC he was one of the first players I thought of, at every level of football having a consistent scorer is crucial and he fits the bill perfectly, he has scored goals all his career and we needed someone like him at the top end of the pitch.
Added to his ability everyone just said what a top lad he was, I knew he had worked with Brian and we thought he would fit what we were building, both on the pitch and also off it. When we first met I was immediately drawn towards him. The conversation was all about football, finances weren’t even mentioned. He said it was a no-brainer and he couldn’t wait to get started.
I was gutted and I still am that he got injured. Forget his age, he is naturally fit and will return from this injury and pull in the red shirt of FC , I can guarantee that!!"
Let’s hope that Chris gets his operation as soon as is possible and as soon as it’s safe, we’ve got an Almond/Owolabi combination tearing defences to pieces fighting it out for that golden boot in a red shirt.