'I've had plenty of bad luck': Ex-Portsmouth and Everton winger on rebuilding promising career devastated by 16 months out injured

Successive knee injuries robbed Ben Tollitt of 16 months of his career – now the winger’s eyeing a Football League return.
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The former Pompey man was sold to Tranmere in December 2016 following 18 games and one goal after being plucked from the building site by Paul Cook.

However, the 27-year-old’s promising progress would be devastated by three unconnected injuries to his right knee while at Prenton Park.

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He’s now starring for the ambitious AFC Fylde, who are managed by former Morecambe manager Jim Bentley and currently topping National League North.

And Tollitt, who is out of contract at the season’s end, remains determined to find a way back into the Football League.

He told The News: ‘After leaving Pompey, I probably lost a good two seasons because of injury.

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‘Everything was going so well at Tranmere and clubs were watching me, then injuries derailed a good deal of momentum I had going.

Former Pompey player Ben Tollitt is flourishing at National League leaders AFC Fylde. Picture: Alex Livesey/Getty ImagesFormer Pompey player Ben Tollitt is flourishing at National League leaders AFC Fylde. Picture: Alex Livesey/Getty Images
Former Pompey player Ben Tollitt is flourishing at National League leaders AFC Fylde. Picture: Alex Livesey/Getty Images

‘Firstly I did my ACL, then, in my first game back, I fractured my knee cap, which was a complete accident.

‘When I returned, I had played five or six games before someone took me out around my knee and I did a different ligament, which was the MCL, putting me out for another eight weeks.

‘That was three different injuries all on the same right knee, unrelated to each other. It was crazy.

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‘I had plenty of bad luck over that 15-16 months, but it’s not like I’ve had an injury prone career. Apart from those three times, I haven’t been injured.

Ben Tollitt made 18 appearances and scored once for Pompey after joining in July 2015 under Paul Cook. Picture: Joe PeplerBen Tollitt made 18 appearances and scored once for Pompey after joining in July 2015 under Paul Cook. Picture: Joe Pepler
Ben Tollitt made 18 appearances and scored once for Pompey after joining in July 2015 under Paul Cook. Picture: Joe Pepler

‘I’ve never pulled a muscle in my life and been available ever since that period.

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‘People may look at it and think injuries have killed me, but I don’t see it that way. I have been fine since the last problem with my knee in 2018.

‘It hasn’t affected me either. The GPS for the games shows I’m running the most in the squad, my sprinting distances are the highest and my spring speeds are the best, I’m not damaged by it whatsoever.

Ben Tollitt in action against Exeter in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy in September 2015. Picture: Joe PeplerBen Tollitt in action against Exeter in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy in September 2015. Picture: Joe Pepler
Ben Tollitt in action against Exeter in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy in September 2015. Picture: Joe Pepler
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‘Maybe being so young when those injuries occurred have, in a way, helped me, allowing me to recover. I’m physically just as good, if not actually running more.’

Boss Bentley had previously attempted to recruit him from Pompey while in charge of Morecambe, yet finally got his man.

And Tollitt insists their relationship is flourishing, with the Coasters currently two points clear of Brackley Town at the table’s summit.

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The former Everton player added: ‘I feel like the past two seasons have been the only real true ones where I’ve actually had a proper run of games.

‘It seemed in the past that whenever I got a good run going something would stop it, whether it be an injury or a manager leaving that liked me or changing shape.

‘I’ve now settled into a place where I’ve found a good manager, a good assistant manager, and how they want to play is how I like to play. It just seems to be working well.

‘Hopefully this can help me back to where I want to be playing. If I can sign for Pompey from the Sunday League, why can’t I do it again with more experience?

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‘I want to be back at Football League level. I’m never going to just be happy with where I’m at.’

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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