Bonnyrigg Rose defender Jonathan Brown has vowed to continue playing through the pain barrier as the New Dundas Park men power towards the Super League title.
The former Hearts kid has been plagued by an ankle ligament injury since the age of just 14. Three operations and several cortisone injections have failed to alleviate the problem on his right foot and he was advised to quit the game at the end of last season by a specialist to avoid problems in future life.
Brown rarely goes through a day of everyday life without pain, but the determined full-back says he couldn’t give up the game he loves at just 25, although he recognises he’ll have to cut his career short one day.
He regularly has to miss training sessions to rest his troublesome ankle just so he can feature on a Saturday, but it is a problem he’s happy to live with if it means success at the end of the season with Rose.
“I’ve had problems with my ankles for years now and it’s just something I’m going to have to live with for the rest of my career. I was told to retire last year but obviously I didn’t want to, I’d rather just keep playing and enjoying it,” said Brown ahead of tomorrow’s match at home to St Andrews.
“The specialist said that it was pretty much time to stop doing less impact stuff, the quote which he came out with which I laughed at was ‘You’ve got the ankle of a 40-year-old sportsman’. He suggested Yoga but I wasn’t going to start doing all that; I would do it but not instead of football.
“I know the injuries are going to come and I’m going to miss games here and there but Robbie [Horn, Bonnyrigg manager] has been brilliant about it. I can miss a training session here and there to get me fit. Most of the time it’s astroturf we train on so it can be quiet difficult. It’s not too bad, it’s just managing it to be honest.
“There’s a chance it could affect me when I’m older, but it’s a chance I’m willing to take. Football is a short career, you’re a long time retired. Bonnyrigg are too good a club to walk away from.”
Brown came through the youth ranks at Tynecastle under the tutelage of coaches Darren Murray, Stephen Frail and John McGlynn. He spent time around the first team, featuring on the bench several times but a constant change of manager during the Vladimir Romanov years meant he never made the breakthrough.
Brown continued: “There was new manager changes all the time, there was six or seven managers in the time I was there, so it was hard – every manager would like you different compared to another one so it was just your luck to be honest.
“It was a good upbringing at Hearts, you basically take everything that you’ve got now that you learnt from a young age. I had good coaches when I was coming through so I had a good grounding and that sets you up for the rest of your career.”
Loan moves to Livingston and Stirling Albion allowed the youngster to get a taste of first-team experience and a fruitful stint at Almondvale brought him a taste of silverware as the West Lothian club won the Third Division title.
Now Brown is desperate for success with Bonnyrigg as he craves his second title. The Midlothian men are in command at the top of the table with 12 league games remaining, they hold a two point advantage and three games in hand over second-placed Bo’ness United, while defending champions Kelty Hearts are five points behind having played the same number of matches.
Brown, in his second season with the club, realises he doesn’t have long left in his career and he is determined to win as much as he can. He’s quite happy plying his trade in the Junior ranks and doesn’t harbour any hopes of returning to the Senior game.
“You play football to win and you want to win everything you can. I might not have much longer left with my ankle,” he said.
“I wouldn’t go back senior for the reason that I wouldn’t be able to be consistent to play enough. I’ve done my time professionally and I got out what I could with my ankle.
“I love it at Bonnyrigg, it’s a great club. They look after you and it’s a bonus that we are doing well in the league just now and long may it continue. It’s ours to win, it’s in our hands – we’ve got a lot of tough games coming up so we can’t take anything for granted. There is a long way to go, but it’s down to us.”