Gemma - I'm just so grateful
Report by David Brenchley
Page last updated at 11:31PM UTC, Thursday, 26 January 2017
Having been on the sidelines since September, Gemma Shepherd is gearing up for a return to action in the Charlton women’s team’s FA Women’s Premier League South clash against her former club West Ham United, weather permitting, on Sunday 29 January at Sporting Club Thamesmead.
I can't express how grateful I am to everybody who helped; Valley Gold, the Charlton fans, players
Shepherd, who has netted 102 goals in 92 appearances for Charlton since making the move back in 2012, needed an operation on her hip after a match against local rivals Crystal Palace.
Coming in at around £5,000, the striker was overwhelmed by the support shown by Charlton Athletic supporters, including Valley Gold who donated £500, as well a fellow players – both team mates and opponents.
We caught up with her at training Tuesday as she continued on the comeback trail.
Q: Gemma, could you just quickly describe your injury and the operation you had to have?
GS: A lot of female athletes tear the cartilage in their knee; I effectively did the same thing but in my hip. A lot of people can recover from them with conservative methods but I think for me it’s been an underlying problem for a while and it’s why I’ve missed time season after season – it’s gone undiagnosed for a bit and the size of it meant that I needed it repaired.
Q: How did the injury come about?
I had the op done in October; I realised it was playing me up when we played Crystal Palace at their place but I think the actual injury happened a few years ago and it’s kind of fallen by the wayside a little bit. It’s been an ongoing issue that’s hopefully been sorted now.
Q: As frustrating as it must have been, you must be pleased you, hopefully, have it sorted now?
I knew there was something wrong but obviously when it’s not being picked up you just have to go with the advice you’re given. I knew there was something going on there and for it to finally be picked up and dealt with is a big relief. Even though it’s meant being out for a while, it’s good to finally draw a line under it – fingers crossed!
It’s just been frustrating because until I had that knee injury a couple of years ago I’d never really been injured for any prolonged period and I’m someone who loves playing every minute of every game. It’s what I love to do and it’s really difficult to have to miss out so I’m just massively grateful that it’s been sorted. I just want to stay healthy because I know that if I can I’ll be able to maintain a consistent level of performance.
Q: And you must be looking forward to getting back out on the pitch?
Ultimately that’s all I want to do. It’s just something that you dream about when you go to bed, you work tirelessly to get there and it’s all I’ve been thinking about for the last four months or so. Being on the cusp is difficult because you feel near but far at the same time. I’m just massively looking forward to it.
Q: And finally, I am sure you have a message for those who supported your cause and donated some money towards the operation…
It’s just a massive mark of what this club stands for and I can’t put into words how grateful I am because had it not been for them I may still be waiting on [the operation] – I think it’s those things that I’m not sure they readily give out on the NHS because it’s quite specific.
It was just a massive overwhelming surprise and as I said all I can say is I’m so, so grateful because I wouldn’t be where I am now, on the verge of coming back, if I didn’t have that support from in some respects complete strangers.
I can’t express how grateful I am to everybody who helped; Valley Gold, the Charlton fans, players – my opponents, who probably don’t want me to be back very soon helped me out. It’s just one of those things that goes to show how unifying football can be and it runs deeper than tribal lines.
Now and every performance and every time I go out there it’s just a thank you to them. I just hope that I can repay people by playing well and getting back to where I was before because that’s all I want to do; play well for this club and hopefully that will be thanks enough – I can’t repay everybody physically but hopefully that’s my way of saying thank you to everyone.