CRAIG CLOKE will be out for a minimum of eight weeks – and there are fears it could be even longer.
The Whites ace, winner of all four of the club’s player of the year awards last season, broke a tibular bone in two places after falling awkwardly on his ankle during the 1-1 FA Trophy tie against Dartford at Crabble on Saturday.
Craig was one of THREE key players crocked during an all-action Kent derby against our old Southern League rivals.
Danny Chapman was caught badly on his knee under a heavy challenge and Daniel Braithwaite dislocated his knee from a shocking tackle in the first-half, which was not even punished by a yellow card.
But early indications suggest that Cloke’s injury is the worst and chairman Jim Parmenter even fears he could be out for most of the season.
However, by his own admission, Jim is not a doctor – and optimistic specialists at Buckland Hospital, Dover, believe he could be back training within a couple of months.
Craig was gutted by the news that he faces at least two months out of action and has even been signed off work for around that period too.
He said: “I’m so disappointed. So far in my career, I’ve not suffered any serious injury. I’ve had a few minor injuries and even played through them. But to find out I won’t be able to play for a while is gutting – especially with big games coming up against other top sides in Ryman One.”
The defender admits the pain has subsided somewhat since Saturday – but he managed to trip over his pet puppy Razor at home Sunday morning, which left him aching again.
However, Craig relived the horror moment when he broke tibular ligaments.
He said: “I jumped up for a header, came down hard and my leg and body went over the top. I heard a crack near my ankle and couldn’t really walk on it.
“I told Browney (Tony Browne) what I heard and showed him the divot where I landed. He picked up a bit of grass and poked fun, saying ‘that’s not your foot!’ He was just mucking about. But I told Frank Clarke, the physio, that I couldn’t walk and had to go off.
“I was taken to hospital, had an X-ray and they said I’d broken two bits of my tibular. It was amazing because I was in and out of Buckland in one hour, which is very good for them.
“Now I’ve got to go to Folkestone a week Wednesday for an appointment with a doctor about my ankle and leg and get a proper cast put on it because at the moment I’ve got one on there which allows the swelling to come out.
“These things usually take six to eight weeks. The nurse told me it was not a bad break and I should be fit in that time.
“She said the swelling is not bad and it should heal fine. The lady just told me to take it easy, which is exactly what I intend doing because I want to be playing as soon as possible.”
Craig has become good friends with Daniel Braithwaite since the popular full-back joined Whites under former boss Steve Browne before last Christmas.
Daniel is still not sure about the full extent of his injury – but his knee did click back into place after it was dislocated and he will be seeing a specialist this week for a verdict.
Craig said: “Braz isn’t quite sure how serious his injury is but he is hoping to be back playing in the next week or two. I really hope he does because we need players like him in the team during this run of tough games.
“He couldn’t believe that I was in plaster so quickly on Saturday. I sent him a picture message on my mobile just to prove it.”
Despite his injury – and that of Danny Chapman and Daniel Braithwaite – Craig backs boss Clive Walker to motivate the young players who will step in and get the best out of them.
He said: “There are some useful young players at the club who can more than hold their own at this level – and they are hungry too. I got my break in the side when Dean Readings and Nicky Humphrey got serious injuries a few seasons back – and I’ve been in the side ever since.
“This is where players like Sam Vallance can come in and get their chance – although I understand Sam has been injured recently too. But there’s definitely enough quality there and Clive will get the best out of them.
“That’s the thing about Clive – he’s such a good manager. Even with a side down to the bare bones, he will get people closing down space across the park – and we’ll always have a chance to win games.”
At least Craig can look forward to spending more time with his recently-born daughter Briseis and has his fiancée Simone to look after him too.
He admitted: “I’m probably going to be spending a lot of time watching DVDs and playing computer games on the Playstation. But the be-all and end-all is getting better and playing for Dover as soon as possible, because football is so important to me.”
Good luck Craig – and get better soon!
The club are waiting 48 hours before assessing the injury situation – but chairman Jim Parmenter said: “We can assure fans that the board will not allow our promotion push to be halted by these injuries.”
Check back later for a full interview with the Whites chairman.