Jamie Chandler – “I also knew that, deep down, I needed to talk to someone”

Jamie Chandler – “I also knew that, deep down, I needed to talk to someone”

In the ever-increasing world of sporting endeavour, whether that be of a professional, or an amateur ilk, collecting a serious injury can often be career-threatening (even worse as we all saw during this past summers’ European Championship).

In our quaint little corner, in Northern England however, Spennymoor Town’s ex-Darlington and Gateshead midfielder, 32-year-old Jamie Chandler, has not once, but twice, experienced such injury and, on both occasions, risen above and made successful returns from them.

It doesn’t always happen that way, as Jamie well knows, in fact, his most recent injury, a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament which was inflicted during a match between Spennymoor, and visitors Brackley Town, in February 2020, came scarily close to ending his playing career.

Fortunately, it didn’t and he’s recovered rather well, but those mental scars that come with, both through this, and his first serious injury, they’ll run deep, as he alludes to here.

Jamie’s early footballing career, between 1999 and 2010, saw him on the books with Football League side, Sunderland AFC, going on to make his league debut, in August 2009, against Aldershot, before making his first start, in the League Cup, against Leeds United a few days later – however, all of that could have gone pear-shaped when he played in the FA Youth Cup.

“We were playing against Preston (North End) in the Youth Cup, and I scored in the opening ten minutes,” began Jamie, looking back at those early years.

“At that time, I was also training with the first team, and, in that particular game, the ball comes to me, and somehow I’ve come off worst (not with the ball we’ll just add).

“The x-rays that were taken afterwards, at the hospital, they showed a fracture; it came at the wrong time for me though and I was out for a good six months plus, so, when I did make my return, time had passed me by and I found myself playing catch-up in what was a tough period for young players.”

As those who know the pitfalls and successes that come with being a professional athlete, in any sport, a combination of both injury, and being cut-loose by a pro club, can have a long-standing, detrimental effect – the latter most certainly does.

In returning from that first injury, the midfielder found himself that far back, that he’d end up moving away from Sunderland, and onto to Darlington, where he’s previously been on loan, they being one of several options on the table.

“I had numerous options, Darlington, Hartlepool and Carlisle, but I already had a good affiliation with the Darlo fans, and I knew some of the players already, which helped a lot,” continued Jamie.

“I then moved onto Gateshead where I was fortunate to be part of a really good dressing room; I love going back there and have some good friends that are still at the club.”

In 2016, Jamie, who has also won 19 caps as an England Youth International, between 2005-08, make the move to the fast-rising Spennymoor Town, under the erstwhile guidance of Chairman/Owner, Bradley Groves, and their then manager, Jason Ainsley.

Since his arrival at the Brewery Field the club have finished in the top eight on each of the past four seasons, promoted to the National League North (via the playoffs) in 2017, before narrowly missing out on promotion, to the National League (via the playoffs), two years later.

A global pandemic, and another, serious injury, have however, threatened Jamie’s career in recent years.

“I was out of action, overall, for about 16-18 months,” added Jamie, when discussing his most recent setback.

“(Current ‘Moors manager) Tommy (Miller) had made me still feel a part of the day-to-day goings-on at the club, so credit to him for wanting me to be there.

“Right now, I’ve played a dozen or so matches since I returned, but at the start of it all, I’d gone from playing every single minute on the pitch, to near two years out – I’d only just said to my wife (Amy) just prior, as to how well things were going for me.

“I owe so much to people like Gavin Cogden, and Andy Oates, and others at the football club, because, without them, I probably wouldn’t be back on the pitch now.

“The day that I ruptured my acl, it was something I’d never felt before and, during that game (with Brackley), once it had happened, I carried on for another five minutes or so, I wanted to give it a go – the ball whizzed past me, and I knew right then, at that moment, that something wasn’t right.

“Then covid landed, and my treatment was held up; I did start some light training though, but it soon went again when I was at the beach with my son (Frankie Jnr).

“It would be then that I was told that I needed surgery, and some 10-12 months on the sidelines.

“That was a crushing blow for me, but I received so much support from the club, my parents, and from my wife – I wouldn’t have got through this, both mentally, and physically, otherwise.”

Long-term injury is something which almost certainly affects the mental health of an individual, especially within the world of sport; an acl injury is one which very few athletes have returned from, therefore, recovery and rehabilitation can, and will, play heavily on the mind.

Even after the operation, you’ll just never know as to what the future will hold, and once you’re gripped (mental health-wise) it can also become a long road back.

“There were times, yes, a few times, when I’d thought I’d just not even get the operation – I was done,” explained the UEFA A & Elite Youth Level coach.

“I’m one of those people who really bottle things up as well, but I also knew that, deep down, I needed to talk to someone, and look at what options were available.

“I’ll admit though, there were some dark days, and a lot of doubt behind whether I’d play again.

“I read a lot as well (about the type of injury) and it was all negative, so with that I also became a very negative person, to which my Amy would readily vouch for – it was heart-wrenching, and there’d be moments, just little ones, that would just have me bursting into tears.”

With that, somebody of Jamie’s calibre, his ilk, and having been a professional footballer, playing at the level he had, in those formative years, the knowledge in which he’d gathered since the turn of the millennium, it stuck with him; in turn, that became another bugbear throughout the recent, injury and recovery process.

“I’ve always had some sort of routine, I’m a routine-freak,” explained Jamie with a giggle.

“Everything is the same, so losing all of that, it was really hard for me.

“Amy knew that I wasn’t right, and there was a moment, a very real moment, just before I went into hospital for the operation, where she just burst into tears, and it was that moment right there that gave me a wakeup call.

“Moving forward though, and to see my little boy at the Brewery Field, that was something else, that is what I am doing all this for.”

Now, and with role models all around him, both on and off the football field, and young Frankie Jnr no doubt placing his father into that category, Jamie is thankful for his strong, support network.

“Someone like James Curtis is certainly a role model,” added Jamie.

“He’s someone I look up to, his loyalty, and someone who has been there and done it all, and still does.

“Then you’ve got Brad (Spennymoor supremo, Bradley Groves), he’s done and still does, so much for this football club.

“It’s incredible and he deserves an immense amount of credit.

“He’s also done so much for me, and my family; then there’s Jay (ex-manager, Jason Ainsley) who did a great job here and is a very loyal individual – people like those, they’re a rare breed, and do so much behind the scenes.

“Because of that, my time here, it’s flown over, and I love it; I love the whole, ‘Moors experience.

“And now, in going forward, I just want to be able to enjoy myself, play every game, and I’m proud, and honoured, to be representing Spennymoor Town.”

Fine and Dandi are delighted to sponsor Jamie for the 2021-22 season at Spennymoor Town and wish him well for the current season.

Moors images courtesy of David Nelson (@DJNelsonPhotos), whilst you can follow Spennymoor Town via @SpennymoorTown, and Jamie Chandler at @jamie_chandler4