CONCORD Rangers captain Tony Stokes says winning the Essex Senior Cup after being told he would never play again was “a dream come true”.
Stokes skippered the Beachboys as they ran out 2-1 winners against Conference National side Braintree Town on Tuesday night, and lifted the trophy in front of the hundreds of travelling supporters.
However, it could have been so different for Stokes.
In a pre-season match against Billericay Town last summer he suffered a knee injury that ruled him out for four months. Doctors told him he had damaged the cartilage and said may never get back onto the football pitch.
The 27-year-old said it was “unreal” to win after the trials and tribulations of last summer.
“This has been a really tough season for me, but I have grown so much as a player. To be told you are not going to be able to play football again was hard to take but I kept going and the physio team worked their socks off to help me.
“To miss the first games of the season and come away in the last game a winner is a dream.”
Concord won the final after goals from Sam Collins and James White, although James Mulley did score a late consolation.
The Beachboys beat Waltham Abbey, Chelmsford City, Canvey Island and Colchester United to reach the showpiece and Stokes thinks the quality of the opposition Concord had to beat made the win even more enjoyable.
“It’s been a tough competition and we have played some fantastic teams.
“We know all about Braintree but I thought we were terrific to a man on the night. Beating the teams we have as well makes it that bit more satisfying but we deserved to win each game. We worked our socks off all season and kept running until the very last minute.”
“This has been the fitting end. It’s been a tough season and everyone has grafted.”
Stokes is one goal away from a landmark for the club, being stuck on 99 goals.
He said: “Unfortunately I couldn’t reach it this season, but I will be back next season where I will be stronger and fitter. I already can’t wait.”