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Russell refusing to give up on professional dream

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Enrique Russell of PHC celebrates after completing his hat-trick against Somerset Eagles on October 18 (File photograph by Lawrence Trott)
Enrique Russell’s return to form only a few years after serious knee injury spelt bad news for Somerset Eagles on October 18 when he scored his first hat-trick in a 3-1 win at White Hill Field (File photograph by Lawrence Trott)

Enrique Russell says his dream of playing professional football remains alive after making a comeback from a serious knee injury.

The 20-year-old’s ambitions were dealt a crushing blow three years ago when he was at the Bournemouth academy and injured his anterior cruciate ligament playing for the under-18s in a friendly against Milton Keynes Dons.

His left knee required reconstructive surgery and kept him out of the game for more than 12 months.

“It’s probably one of the most common injuries in football,” said Russell, who has also had trials with Sky Bet Championship side Watford before settling on the South Coast.

“I’m still dealing with the ramifications as I actually had to pay for my own surgery, which was kind of surprising. They didn’t really take care of me how I thought they would, but it’s all part of my journey and you can’t complain.”

Russell believes he has made a full recovery and, with the Bermudian diaspora gaining greater profile in overseas leagues, aims to keep a keen eye on future opportunities.

“I will never lose sight of my goal to play professionally,” he added. “It’s always bumps in the road, but that is the goal and I will always try my hardest to reach it.

“You never know what the future holds; anything is possible.”

Russell initially made his comeback from injury in March 2019, playing in Greater Manchester for Cheadle Town, of the North West Counties Football League, before returning to Bermuda for the 2019-20 season.

At PHC this season, he has thrived under a changed set-up under new coach Winston Trott Jr, with established Bermuda players Cecoy Robinson and Tre Ming among those who had sought fresh pastures in the transfer window.

Before the enforced shutdown of football because of the global pandemic, Russell had been playing his part in the Zebras’ regeneration with nine goals, including a maiden hat-trick at senior level — against Somerset Eagles in a 3-1 win at White Hill Field on October 18.

“I was doing pretty well and then the season got cut short due to Covid,” Russell said.

The dramatic rise in the number of active Covid-19 cases on island led to organised football being suspended initially until December 22 after the Ministry of Health invoked Section 88 of the Public Health Act 1949.

The prospect of any football before the end of the year was then taken out of administrators’ hands when the Government announced that curfew restrictions had been extended by another two weeks to January 4.

“It’s been on and off since, and this season has actually been my first full healthy season so far,” Russell said of his return from knee surgery.

“I was really looking forward to it and then obviously coronavirus keeps interrupting.”

Few strikers are ever satisfied with their goal production, and Russell is no different.

“[The season] has been good, but from my personal standards it could be much better,” he said. “I should have 15 goals, at least, so I feel I have a lot of room for improvement.

“This is only the beginning for me because I feel I can definitely push on to that next step.”

The product of a family steeped in football history, especially at PHC, Russell attributes his prolific start to the season to good team chemistry.

“We are all very close like a tight-knit family, so it’s easy to play with these guys,” said the son of Tokia Russell and great-grandson of Earl “Townsey” Russell, both departed.

“It doesn’t feel like a challenge at all. We always seem to be on the same page and connect so well, so it makes it so much easier.”

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Published December 31, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated December 30, 2020 at 10:01 pm)

Russell refusing to give up on professional dream

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