Ben Burgess column: My return ended up in A&E!

Ben Burgess in action for Blackpool's legends side last weekend

Ben Burgess in action for Blackpool's legends side last weekend

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After Blackpool’s impressive win over Scunthorpe a couple of weeks ago, it was such a shame that the Seasiders succumbed to a relatively late goal away from home against top of the table Gillingham.

The general feeling was that a draw would have been a fair result and that would have given the boys something to build on, but they now have to pick themselves up for a tricky home fixture against Barnsley, who have underperformed so far this season but have some good players at League One level.

I have been impressed by the signing of Martin Paterson this week. He’s always looked really sharp when I’ve played against him down the years and at 28 is still a good age. My only concern is that he’s similar in stature to Jack Redshaw and Mark Cullen.

On Sunday afternoon, I had the wonderful opportunity to relive my footballing days. I’ve probably taken part in three matches since retiring and all with limited success (a bit like my career).

I put a career of injuries to the back of my mind as I drove to Thornton FC to play for Blackpool FC ‘Legends’ against Fleetwood Town ‘Legends’. I allowed myself to have a little dream that I’d play and my body would feel great and maybe, just maybe, I could make a comeback!

I tried to block out my wife’s last words to me as I left the house, “Don’t go crippling yourself. You’ve got school tomorrow!”

I arrived at the ground with that nervous excitement inside me. Even my children had come to watch in their Tangerine kits.

I had explained to them that they should try to lower their expectations of their daddy, but they weren’t having any of it.

The first issue was that we barely had enough players to make a full team and the other issue was the youthful look of Fleetwood Town’s team. I glanced to my side and with just 30 minutes until kick-off fellow player Mike Davies had just started his third pint!

Stepping into the changing room was just like going back a few years. Banter was flying around, most of it coming from the highly entertaining Davies and as usual there was quite a lot aimed at Danny Coid. Derek Spence (our gaffer) approached me and asked for a quiet word.

Surely he wasn’t going to tell me that I was sub and Mike Davies was going to play ahead of me once he’d finished his pint!

Luckily, I was still in the starting 11 but we had Andy Preece, John Murphy and myself to play up front (combined height of about 19ft) and no centre-halves. I was the chosen one to play alongside Ciaran Donnelly at the back.

It can’t be that hard, I thought. Evo always used to make it look quite simple!

The game started well, with a timeless David Eyres and Phil Clarkson dominating midfield, and John Murphy and Andy Preece making darting runs like big Tangerine ‘red arrows’.

The left-back playing just next to me was 50 years old and, if I’m honest, I wasn’t expecting too much from him.

How wrong was I? Brian Butler was his name and he was unbelievable. Up and down the pitch like an old Roberto Carlos, he nutmegged three people and even did an overhead kick (as well as covering for my limping self). What happened next was inevitable, I’m afraid.

I blocked a shot with an outstretched leg, then tried to get to my feet and realised my knee was clicking and I could barely run. A few pats on the back from my team-mates and the adrenaline of actually contributing helped me get through the next 90 minutes and a 4-3 win. This may have been a friendly but there was no denying the desire to win of every player on both teams.

Even though I’ve ended the week on crutches due to a swollen knee (special thanks to all at Blackpool Vic hospital), and my chances of a comeback have been diminished, I still enjoyed the day and the experience of playing with some true legends.

More important, we managed to raise some money for Billy Ronson and Iain Hesford.