Jonny Stewart may have only featured a handful of times for Bonnyrigg Rose this season after an eight month injury lay off but he’s still played a major role in their unbeaten start to the season.
The former Hearts midfielder was left crocked after snapping his ankle ligaments in an innocuous challenge against Musselburgh Athletic in April last year and was forced to go under the knife in August to alleviate the issue. He only returned to action last month and made his first start of the season last weekend, playing an hour in Rose’s 2-0 victory at home to Forfar West End.
Stewart has been out for the best part of a year, but that’s not to say he’s been stood twiddling his thumbs whilst watching on from the sidelines, as he’s aided manager David White and assistant/player Neil Janczyk from the dugout and out on the training pitch, ensuring the players are ready to go on a Saturday.
“It’s been a long road to recovery to be honest,” said the 28-year-old. “I got injured in April last season, but we still had a few big games left – we were still going for the league and a cup, so I kept trying to come back to be involved in those games but it just wasn’t getting better.
“I eventually went for a scan and basically the ligaments had snapped in my ankle. I had seen a couple of different physios and they thought it was just a strain and I’d be out for three or four weeks, but the ligaments had snapped completely. I got the operation at the start of August and I was on crutches for six weeks, I wasn’t able to drive or anything so it was a bit of nightmare.
“Once I came off the crutches it was basically trying to learn to walk again; I’d lost everything in my calf, so I had to build up my ankle slowly but steadily. I started light training in December then I played a couple of ten minutes cameos a few weeks ago in the league, then an hour in a friendly and an hour in the league last week. Hopefully it’s all behind me now.”
The New Dundas Park men, currently top of the Super League, host west side Beith Juniors in the fifth round of the Scottish Junior Cup tomorrow with a place in the quarter-finals at stake. Rose lost out at the semi-final stage last season to eventual winners Glenafton and are determined to go one step further.
The match against 2015/16 winners Beith may come too soon for club captain Stewart, who doesn’t expect to walk back into the side even though he now helps to pick the team.
“When Robbie [Horn] and Davie Burrell moved on to Berwick, initially Charlie [Kirkwood, chairman] had asked me and Davie White to take the team for the next few games which I was more than happy to do,” continued Stewart.
“When Whitey got the job full-time he asked me if I would be interested in still helping out in a coaching role. At the time it was ideal because I was injured and it kept me involved, rather than just turning up and watching training from the side and watching games, which can be a bit demoralising, I was actually still involved – helping training and taking some drills and helping out on a match day as well. That kept my morale up, and to be fair to Whitey, the gaffer still wants me to do that even though I’m back training.
“I’m kind of out the dressing room now so to speak. I meet with the manager and Janny [Janczyk] early on a Tuesday and Thursday to plan training, so I miss out on the banter in the dressing room – a couple of them have been at me saying I need to decide to what I’m going to do, ‘are you a player or a coach?’ I’m kind of both at the moment.
“Credit to the boys, they’ve been playing really well. It’s the middle of February now and we’re still unbeaten and in all competitions. I’ve just to keep working away and keep chapping on the manager’s door, even though I kind of have a say in the team as well! I’m not expecting to come straight came back in. I know myself I’m not quite match sharp yet to play.”
Elsewhere in the Junior Cup, Bo’ness United visit Kilburnie Ladeside in Ayrshire and Linlithgow Rose travel west to take on Kirkintilloch Rob Roy.