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Brown heads back to work despite injury
Darlington's Gary Brown suffered a serious ankle injury only one week ago, and will pull his boots on today and return to work.
It's not quite the news, however, the club's supporters would like to hear.
What pays Brown's bills is his day job as a heating engineer for Newton Aycliffe-based Industrial Heating Services and, having already had one week on the sick, he feels guilty about being laid up while his colleagues cope without him. So he's returning to work, despite hobbling around with severe ankle ligament damage.
"I was off last week and my boss, Steve Gowland, was good letting me have the time off, but I felt bad about it. I'm going back on Monday, I have to, I can't leave them stranded," said Brown.
"I've got a plastic protective boot to wear, but I'm just going to have to take it off and get into a steel toe-capped boot. Work is the priority.
"I'll take some painkillers and grit my teeth. It might make my ankle worse because I'm going to be on it all day, but there's only three of us that work there so I don't want to be off."
That commitment to the cause is a characteristic that has helped Brown become popular with Darlington fans.
It perhaps also helps explain how he sustained the injury nine days ago in a friendly at Gateshead.
In the last minute of the game, a 2-1 win for the Heed, midway inside Darlington's half and with the hosts' Marcus Maddison not posing any danger, Brown chopped him down but came off second best and had to be stretchered off the field.
Why tackle when the game is almost over?
"People have asked me why, but I'm the same from kick-off until the final whistle goes. I don't clockwatch," he explained.
"The hospital said I'd have been better off breaking it, which is a strange one. I don't understand what they mean, but it's a bad injury.
"I've watched the video back a few times. They've re-laid the pitch at Gateshead with rolls of new turf; there's gaps between the rolls and my studs got stuck in there."
So, while Industrial Heating Services benefit from Brown's swift return, Darlington must do without their captain for around 12 weeks.
It's a huge disappointment for the team and, with the season starting a week on Saturday, manager Martin Gray is left attempting to bring in a centre-back.
It's also a blow for Brown, who knows how it feels to be sidelined having previously suffered a lengthy injury.
He said: "It's a psychological injury for me, because I'd rather be playing football than watching it. It's hard watching games that you could be involved in.
"When I was at Shildon I was out for nine months when I had an injury misdiagnosed. I was told it was a tear on my medial, but in the end I went to get a scan and it turned out I'd torn my knee cartilage.
"It happened when I was playing for a Sunday morning team. I was meant to be playing golf, but it was called off because of rain so I went to watch the lads and they asked me to play because I was still registered. After 20 minutes a lad came at me, I jumped, but my knee collapsed.
"I played the rest of the game and there was no pain, but in the afternoon I was laid on the couch and the knee had swollen. It was massive.
"So I know what it's like to be injured. That was a really hard nine months because I don't like watching football knowing that I should be playing.
"I was on a bike every other night, so that's what I'll be doing as soon as I can get decent movement in my ankle.
"I'm not sure how the rehab will go. On Friday the physio was looking at it and he got a lot of movement out of it, but it's probably going to be six weeks of doing nothing and six weeks rehab after that."
Quakers' campaign begins on August 17 at Heritage Park against Warrington Town, while they have a pre-season friendly at the same venue against Bishop Auckland tomorrow (7.30pm).
"I'd been looking forward to the season starting," Brown added. "Myself and all the lads couldn't wait to get back into training and we actually had a word with Martin and got him to start one week earlier. Albeit it was only six-a-side and then out for a bite to eat.
"It's going to be 12 weeks out, but I'll still be at matches home and away and in the dressing room dishing out bollockings."
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