Leepaul Scroggins: I’ll end things on my terms – and help however I can
There is, of course, never a good time to suffer a broken leg.
But the timing of Leepaul Scroggins‘ serious break earlier this month was particularly cruel.
Less than 24 hours after he played the closing stages of the abandoned FA Vase tie with Morpeth Town on January 7, Scroggins took part in a Sunday league fixture in a bid to regain match fitness.
He had recently recovered from a lengthy lay-off through first a knee injury and then illness, and wanted to get fully up to speed again ahead of the anticipated rematch with Morpeth.
However, he was caught by a late tackle and broke both his tibia and fibula, ruling him out for what looks set to be a considerable period.
The Shields captain said: “I was just getting some fitness in, because I had only played about 45 minutes in the previous seven weeks.
“You can train as much as you want, but it’s not the same as playing.
“I just went to play the ball. A kid came from centre forward to make a tackle.
“It was a naughty tackle – he came through from the side and two-footed me. He hit me with some force.
“I knew straightaway that it was something serious. They lifted me off the pitch and an ambulance came.
“When I put my leg down, my leg moved and that’s when I knew it was broken. An X-ray confirmed my tibia and fibula were broken. I had an operation and got out of hospital on the Tuesday.”
Scroggins, now 35, rejoined Shields in the summer of 2015, having been talked out of retirement by former Mariners manager Jon King.
Many had expected the midfielder to retire at the end of the current season, but he wants to bow out on his own terms.
He added: “I initially intended to retire two summers ago, before Jon King persuaded me to help him win promotion with Shields.
“I then said I’d stay for another year with the aim of winning another promotion. It’d be excellent if I could be back by the end of the season and maybe help us do that.
“I’d like to be in a position where I can retire on my own terms rather than through something like this.
“This is not the way I want to go out. I’m going to get back to where I need to be and then see what happens.
“When I retire, it will be down to me, not because I can’t play.”
When the news broke of Scroggins‘ injury, messages flooded in from friends and opponents across the Northern League.
But one conversation which particularly struck the Shields skipper was one with Morpeth Town chairman Ken Beattie, who called him in between the two Vase ties between the sides.
Scroggins said: “The support I’ve had has been incredible.
“Ken Beattie called me, and said that although he didn’t know me personally, he thought I was a great player and lots of people he knew had spoken highly of me.
“He wished me all the best with my recovery and it was a really nice thing of him to do.
“I’ve had lots of messages and support from people in football.
“It has been quite emotional to read all of the messages but uplifting at the same time.”
Scroggins has been associated with football for as long as he can remember, but for now, it is going to take a back seat.
He said: “I’ve not had many injuries in my career.
“It’s hard work at the moment getting around the house because I’m on crutches, which is making me frustrated.
“It’s going to be a long road to get back to where I need to be.
“My priority is getting back to work so I can support my family.
“Football is a big part of my life, but it doesn’t pay the bills. I’ve got to get on with it now.”
Despite not being available for selection, Scroggins is sure to continue to have an influence at Mariners Park as Shields captain.
And he is determined to do whatever he can to help the team achieve its goals this season.
He added: “I’m still going to be part of it off the field.
“I’ve got the WhatsApp group with the lads and speak to them on a regular basis.
“I always rally round the lads and try to keep them focused.
“I think I can still be part of things in that way and I’m more than happy to do that.”
This article first appeared in The Mariner, the matchday programme of South Shields FC, for the League Cup tie with Penrith on January 17.