EATON: I`M DELIGHTED TO BE BACK PLAYING AGAIN
Evening Post, BY STEVIE RODEN, 04 May 2004
As Mansfield Town have fought through a tough season to reach the play-offs, one of their defenders has been waging his own personal battle.
Full-back Adam Eaton has been striving all season to recover from a complex groin injury.
And just like the club's promotion campaign, he has taken big strides, only to run into setback after setback.
But Eaton's season, like that of the Stags, now seems destined to end in the play-offs after he came through the crucial 3-1 victory over Huddersfield on Saturday.
"It has been a frustrating season for me," he said. "But I have just stuck at it and I'm delighted to be back playing again this season.
"I'm still feeling it but it got to the point where the specialists just said give it a go in training and it has been okay."
He came through 90 minutes in the reserves last week and then got a call from manager Keith Curle.
"I got the phone call on the morning of the game to say I would be involved and I was very pleased," said Eaton.
He played the whole match at left-back, putting in a solid display in place of Tony Vaughan, who picked up a knock in training.
And although he still needs to build fitness, the 24-year-old was content with his performance in only his second game in almost a year.
"I settled down pretty quickly. I enjoyed it and thought I did my job," said Eaton. "I'm a bit sore. I felt it after about 70 minutes and I had a bit of cramp but otherwise I felt okay.
"It was a massive game for us and we can now concentrate on the play-offs.
"When they went a goal up I thought 'here we go' but the lads battled on and we ended up battering them. It should have been six or seven.
"We are back in training today and, hopefully, I will be involved again this week."
It has been a long road to recovery.
Eaton finally pulled on a Stags shirt in December, in the 2-1 defeat against possible play-off opponents Lincoln at Field Mill, but broke down again and found himself straight back in the treatment room.
There were fears he would not play again this season and there was a genuine chance that his professional career could be at stake.
But after intensive treatment at the club and with specialists at the Football Association's rehabilitation centre at Lilleshall, Eaton is back.
The defender is out of contract at the end of the season - along with all but four of the squad.
"I want to be involved against Northampton on Saturday and in the play-offs," he added.
"The play-offs will be nerve-wracking but we can do it for the club and the fans.
"And there are a lot of players out of contract, with negotiations not taking place until we know what league we are in next season, so there is a lot to play for."
Fans put their hands in their pockets to help land Eaton in March last year.
The Stags Supporters' Association spent £5,000 towards a nominal transfer fee after two successful loan spells.
Manager Keith Curle said at the time: "I asked them if they could help us out and I am delighted they have responded in such a positive way."
Wigan-born Eaton played 17 games for Division One Preston before the move.
His career began at Everton in 1997 and he was a member of the FA Youth Cup final-winning team that beat Blackburn Rovers 5-3.
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