Back training with the lads and joining in their pre-match warm-up has proved the perfect tonic for Asa Povey.
The Binfield player is on the road to recovery from a condition affecting his lungs that required surgery and left him confined to home for several months. It was mentally draining for the 24-year-old who thrives on his football and his job as a carpenter.
He has also revealed he took a risk by being playing in the Buildbase FA Vase final at Wembley where he came on as a second-half substitute along with childhood friend Jack Thomson-Wheeler.
It has been a nightmare year for Povey but, fortunately, he can now see light at the end of the long tunnel.
His life started to change for the worse in January.
“I had a really tight chest for a couple of days which I thought would soon go away after a few days, but it didn’t, it got worse and worse,” Asa said. “I went to A&E and Royal Berks and they thought I had just pulled a muscle across the front of my chest, but I had done that before and knew it wasn’t.
“Scans, tests and X-rays didn’t show anything, but the following day I got a call from the Royal Berks to say a specialist had looked at my X-rays and noticed there was air between my lung and chest wall. He described it as like being a balloon in a bucket, there shouldn’t be any gaps between them, it should be tight.
“They said it was quite common among people of my age and build – i.e., tall and skinny – and it should resolve itself in a couple of weeks and never happen again. So they said to take two weeks off work and you’ll be fine.”
Not the news he wanted to hear as Asa had treated himself to a brand new van, had a good booking of jobs for his carpentry work, and Binfield were making progress in the FA Vase.
He continued to have hospital checks and the gap between his lung and chest got wider and it was getting uncomfortable for him.
Royal Berks kept him in so they could closely monitor his condition and was told if the pain intensified they would transfer him to a London hospital for emergency surgery. But they eventually allowed him home with firm instructions not to lift anything heavier than a plate of dinner so as not to put any strain on his lungs. He couldn’t train with Binfield, who were edging closer to Wembley, and being stuck indoors for four months weeks had an adverse effect on his wellbeing.
Eventually, Asa’s lung did collapse, causing severe pain, and he was added to the lengthening surgery list at Guy’s Hospital in London.
But by now Covid-19 related cases became a priority for the surgeons with Asa accepting “Anyone with lung problems and cancer was automatically put in front of me, I couldn’t argue with it especially if a young person was involved.”
However, Asa was able to get along to watch Binfield, saying: “That was a massive thing for me as I was able to see people again. It was affecting me mentally as I had not left the house for about four months. I couldn’t do anything. I had no life really, so it was quite bad.
‘Even if I say no, you are going to’
But two weeks before the (Vase) final he had another x-ray and was told all the air that was causing problems had been released although the hospital specialists still said he needed surgery as there was a 50/50 chance of it happening again in the next 12 months.
The former Henley Town and Brentford U23s player continued: “I said to my consultant I had a once in a lifetime opportunity to play at Wembley and would she allow me to play. She kind of said ‘even if I say no, you are going to.’
She said if anything happens, I do not want to be made accountable for it; if something does happen you are going to know about it. It is up to you if you want to take the risk, but if there were paramedics at the game, they were happy for me to play – and that was enough for me. I went training and put everything into it for two weeks before the final.”
To his delight, he was named among the substitutes but got on after 70 minutes, giving him 20 minutes he will always treasure despite Binfield’s 3-2 defeat at the hands of Warrington Rylands.
“Being on the pitch was really massive for me,” he recalled. “You never forget playing in a Wembley final.”
And two weeks later Asa returned to London for surgery, spending eight days there. Blisters were found on his lung, which were removed by a laser.
“Guy’s Hospital were amazing, I could not fault them,” he commented.
It was another six weeks before he could get back to work and another boost came when he attended Binfield training sessions.
‘[The Binfield players] are a really special group’
During his absence from Hill Farm Lane, he stayed in touch with the players, who had previously eased some of his financial worries by organising a collection for him.
“That was very kind of them, it shows what a great bunch they are,” he continued. “Everyone kept in touch through calls and texts. I have never been at a club with the same togetherness as there is at Binfield. Being back with the players is really uplifting.
“The lads even cheered when I turned up because they knew what I have been through. They are a really special group.
“The season before last I had a couple of offers from clubs in leagues above but I would never leave the group, they are special on and off the pitch.
“It was great just to be back among the lads again. Hopefully, I will be back in full training in two or three weeks’ time but I will see how my fitness goes and not push myself too quickly.
“My consultant said I must treat it like a baby’s lung, it needs strength and conditioning. I have to be careful and I will know when I am ready. If I mess it up and try to get back too quickly it will affect me work-wise. I can’t afford not to be working after having seven months off. As much as I love football, work must come first. I will do as much as I can when I can. It will be trial and error to see how I feel.”