Joe Noakes makes incredible playing return for AFC Portchester after being told: ‘It looks like a grenade has gone off in your knee’

Joe Noakes made a remarkable return for AFC Portchester last weekend - just a matter of months after he was forced to call time on his playing career.

By Lewis Mason
Tuesday, 27th July 2021, 8:08 am
Joe Noakes (blue) made a remarkable playing comeback for Portchester against AFC Totton. Picture: Mick Young
Joe Noakes (blue) made a remarkable playing comeback for Portchester against AFC Totton. Picture: Mick Young

The 27-year-old started and completed 70 minutes of the Royals' 3-2 friendly defeat to Southern League side AFC Totton.

Noakes' incredible comeback is a sign of the resilience and resolve he possesses, returning to play while still waiting for an operation to correct the right anterior cruciate ligament he re-ruptured last pre-season.

The current Royals under-23s boss had been plagued by injuries throughout his career and came to a point where he had no choice but to step away from playing earlier this year.

However, since his decision to retire Noakes has kept on top of his fitness in the gym and joined in training with his under-23s team a couple of weeks ago.

It was from there first team manager Dave Carter suggested he featured in a friendly - and unbelievably Noakes has now signed on for the upcoming season.

‘About two weeks ago I joined in training because I’m the manager of the under-23s now, joined in with my lads, had a little run around and I had no pain,' revealed Noakes.

‘I know my limits with my knee as well where I’ve done it a couple of times now, I know what I can get away with, so I had a little warm-up with the lads and had a training session.

‘As a joke, as I came in, Dave (Carter) said ‘you’ll be alright for a run-out with us soon then, do you fancy it?’

‘I just sort of said 'yeah' and didn’t really think too much into it. I spoke to Dave a couple of times last week and said on Saturday I might come down and do the warm-up and maybe get some minutes towards the end of the game.

‘Zak Sharp pulled up in the warm-up, he was starting left-back. Dave came up to me and said did I fancy starting? I thought it was now or never.

‘It was just nice to be back out with the lads, doing the warm-up, even just getting changed into the kit - it was just nice.

‘I thought ‘I’m going to do it,’ I started and had a good 70 minutes.

‘Touch wood, I don’t want to jinx myself, but my knee didn’t actually hurt one bit, it’s everything else that’s hurting me to be honest.'

The pandemic has put back Noakes' planned surgery on his re-ruptured right ACL sustained more than a year ago.

He revealed his surgeon told him it 'looked like a grenade had gone off in his knee' after sending him for a recent MRI scan.

But Noakes remains determined to get as much playing time as he can while it remains a possibility to do so.

He added: ‘Obviously Covid has pushed a lot of it back (operations), they’ve stopped all non-major surgery. I did get given a date and it got pushed back.

‘I went to see my surgeon, he had a pull around of my knee and just said it was completely gone, I had an MRI scan on it again and his exact description was, ‘it looks like a grenade has gone off in your knee,’ there’s nothing intact in there.

‘I shouldn’t really have played, to be honest, but I’ve got a big heart.

‘I’m only 27 but obviously I’ve had three ACLs and a broken leg. I do miss it like crazy.'