*BS*ALAN POUTON has revealed for the first time that he can see light at the end of the tunnel regarding his injury nightmare.
*BF*The Geordie midfield ace broke his collarbone in two places after a collision with team-mate Liam Quinn during the 1-0 win against Leatherhead in August.
But Whites player-boss Andy Hessenthaler reported that Pouts returned to training last Thursday evening – to the applause of his team-mates.
Pouton, 30, said: “I can now see a glimmer of light and am jogging again. It’s all light work at the moment but I was so happy to get back out there with the lads, even though I’m only jogging at the moment.
“It’s been a frustrating couple of months but the lads have done a great job in the games I’ve been missing – and hopefully by the time I return we’ll still be right up in the mix.”
The former Grimsby, York and Gillingham star was an instant hit with the Dover faithful after signing for the club during the close season.
His superb range of passing and dominating, skillful performances at the centre of the park were proving to be worth the admission fee alone.
Hess and his team, along with the entire fanbase, are eagerly anticipating his return to action – but Pouts is still in the dark as to when exactly that will be.
He said: “I’m due to have an X-ray on December 11 but trying to get a second opinion on the injury. So I’m hoping to see a shoulder specialist and see if we can bring things forward.
“I can jog now and have slowly been getting better. My arm was in a sling for three weeks and I was in a great deal of pain. I could hardly sleep at night – but, thankfully, that has subsided now.
“It was great the first time I was able to visit the lads again in the changing rooms and now I’m back on the training pitch. That’s such a big relief. Now I just want to get back playing football – and help the lads win promotion out of this division.”
*Q1*Pouton, who has vast experience at Championship and League One level, is without doubt one of the best midfield players outside the Football League.
And it was something of a coup for Dover Athletic to obtain his services, after he retired from professional football due to a string of injury problems.
Hess, who signed him from Grimsby when he was manager of then Championship club Gillingham three years ago, clearly played a big part in persuading him to join his Crabble revolution.
Pouton said: “Hess had a good look at the club and was impressed with the set-up. He saw it as one with a lot of potential and, no disrespect intended, Hess would not have taken a managerial job at any other club at this level, or indeed many levels up.
“He can see that the club’s average gate is the envy of nearly all the clubs outside the Blue Square Premier and believes he can take Dover Athletic back to where they were 10 years ago – at the pinnacle of the non-league game.
“I was at a crossroads football-wise because I didn’t know what I was going to do after retiring from pro football. Hessie got me down to Dover, told me his plans and how he wanted to play.
“It fitted in perfectly with me because he wants to play total football. That’s how I like the game, to be played to feet and attack-minded. And the manager has kept to his word because that is the way the team has played.
“Of course, it goes without saying the team cannot always play that way, especially away from home where the pitches won’t allow it.”
Pouton is not surprised Hess has started well in his return to non-league football. Despite the fact that he is now managing part-time players, Hess’s approach to games is every bit as professional as when he used to prepare his Gillingham side for tussles against the likes of West Ham and Sunderland in the Championship.
*Ppic1*He said: “Of course, Andy has been out of the non-league game for a while and needed to get to know the scene again. But he manages Dover in the same way he successfully managed Gillingham.
“For him, dropping down to Ryman One wasn’t a problem, because going away to play against smaller clubs doesn’t faze him. He knows how to grind results out away from home and Hess, and the way he likes his teams to play, can mix it against anyone.
“Hess hasn’t got a squad he is 100 per cent happy with, of course. I’m sure there are some other players he’d love to get down to Crabble but he knows how to make do.
“I used to enjoy my tussles with Hess as a player. He’s so committed and, like myself, loves football. I am certain he is going to do a superb job with Dover Athletic. The team is in very safe hands.”