Justin Donawa starting to put injury nightmare behind him
Justin Donawa is confident his injury nightmare is behind him as he aims to make up for lost time at Solihull Moors.
After making an encouraging start to life with the Vanarama National League outfit in England, the 26-year-old was forced to have an extended period on the sidelines having suffered a fractured distal fibula in his ankle in December 2021.
But since making a long-awaited return to competitive action with a first appearance in nearly a year in November, the Bermuda forward has taken early steps towards full match fitness, featuring a further six times predominantly from the bench.
“I’m still having to manage my recovery from the injury a little but I’m building my fitness back up and I think I’m finally over the actual injury itself,” he said.
“It’s been a long road back to playing again and even now it can still be a little tough but I’m definitely feeling more comfortable in managing it better and I’m getting there. I’m seeing improvements all the time and my fitness and sharpness are coming back.
“It’s hard to replicate match situations and so it’s all about just getting thrown back into games and eventually getting back to the level I was at before the injury.
“I’ve started a couple of matches and had some more minutes from the bench and that has helped massively with gaining confidence back. Thankfully the injury hasn’t affected my game too much; it’s just a case of my body acclimatising to what I used to be able to do and getting back to that level.
“I’m just really grateful to be back among the team and thankful to be playing again.”
As with all long-term injuries, players not only have to deal with the physical rehabilitation but also the mental struggles away from the pitch and for Donawa, the situation was magnified with his previous two-year deal coming to an end while he was injured.
But a decision by the club to hand him a one-year extension during his rehab came as a huge relief and made him even more determined to make a swift comeback.
“It was a huge confidence boost,” Donawa said. “The club could have quite easily said, ‘well, it’s unfortunate that you’re injured but we’re going to let you go’.
“It showed that the club had a huge amount of faith in me that I was going to come back from the injury. At the time, I knew they were taking a gamble on me and I’m hugely grateful for that.
“I definitely used that as added motivation to get back to full fitness quicker because I wanted to repay the faith in me. It was great because it took some of the pressure off and allowed me to concentrate on getting back fit.”
After returning to the first- team fold, Donawa is determined to have a major impact and turn the club’s fortunes around, with Solihull having suffered four straight league defeats to leave them languishing in thirteenth, six points adrift of the play-off places, ahead of a trip to seventeenth-placed Dorking Wanderers tomorrow.
“The ambition is definitely still to challenge for promotion,” said Donawa, who was forced to watch on from the sidelines as Solihull missed out on promotion to the football league when losing 2-1 after extra time against Grimsby Town in the play-off final last season.
“Obviously we lost the play-off final and that hurt everyone a lot but we still hit the ground running this season. We’ve been struggling recently but everyone is working hard to turn the form around. In my head I know I can make a difference, but I also know it will take the entire squad to get us back towards the play-offs.
“I’m in no doubt we can turn it around because we have to keep reaching to try to achieve promotion.”
As well as returning to action for his club side, Donawa could be in contention for a call-up to the national squad for the final two Concacaf Nations League encounters, at home to Guyana on March 25 before facing Haiti away three days later.
While always honoured to represent Bermuda, Donawa admits he would have to give careful consideration to making himself available for the upcoming matches should he receive the nod from coach Kyle Lightbourne.
“Obviously it’s always amazing to represent Bermuda and I’m raring to play for the national team again, but it’s also important for me to take my current situation into consideration,” added Donawa, who has not featured for the national side since June 2021.
“I’d have to evaluate the situation because I have to think about a lot of different things including my match fitness. There is also my contract situation with Solihull. I’m starting to find some rhythm and I could risk not featuring and losing my position in the team. You have to consider everything by looking at the long term.”
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