Ben fights back on to the pitch

TODAY Ben Goddard is one of the stars of the football pitch in Suffolk.Yet two years ago his dreams were almost left in tatters when he was stabbed by a fellow pupil at school.

TODAY Ben Goddard is one of the stars of the football pitch in Suffolk.

Yet two years ago his dreams were almost left in tatters when he was stabbed by a fellow pupil at school.

The promising young footballer suffered such severe injuries that he needed two major operations to stem the bleeding and save his pancreas.

Yet he has battled his way back to fitness, determined to follow his dream of being a professional footballer, and is receiving much praise for his performance with Woodbridge Town FC.

While many may have been defeated by such injuries, Ben says it has only served to make his passion for the beautiful game even stronger.

He said: "Not being able to play for more than a year just demonstrated to me how much I missed it. It's made me hungrier than ever to achieve what I want."

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Getting back in to the game was a long, slow process.

He said: "I would go and watch my friends play and all I wanted to do was be on the pitch, helping them out."

More than a year of not playing football took its toll on Ben's body.

Aside from the large scars on his stomach which will remain a permanent reminder of the stabbing, he also lost more than two stone in weight due to the rapid deterioration of his muscles.

Regular work-out sessions using weights helped him to gradually build them up again until, almost a year and a half after the incident, he was back on the pitch.

He started off slowly, easing himself back in to playing with a Sunday league team in Laxfield, but was only able to play for ten minutes of each match before becoming tired.

He said: "It was great to be back out on the pitch playing, but also really frustrating.

"I would be shattered by the end of ten minutes and as much as I wanted to carry on playing, I just couldn't."

His courageous, fighting spirit shone through, however, because in that first ten minutes back on the pitch he scored a goal.

He said: "It was amazing. Everybody was running around and cheering. I think they were really proud because the doctors had told us that it could be at least a couple of years before I was playing again."

Ben eventually moved on from Laxfield to Woodbridge after attending the SEATEC (Soccer excellence through education and coaching) centre at Copleston High School, which has a link-up with the team.

He is now studying for his A-levels at Copleston and has no doubt that the two things that helped him through his ordeal were his family and his passion for the game.

He said: "When I was really ill my family helped a lot. They were always there for me and kept me entertained.

"Mum and Dad have been really supportive of the football and always come and watch every match with my nan.

"All three of them are always cheering me on from the sidelines and I think they're proud I've got this far."

His desire to get back to playing football as soon as possible provided his motivation through some of the most difficult periods.

Ben, now 17, has been with Woodbridge for around five months now and says he is just taking one day at a time.

He said: "I would say I'm playing at a slightly better standard than I was before this all happened now. I'm really, really happy because I thought I would have to just be content with playing for Sunday league teams and it's nice to be doing well.

"I just hope I can carry on playing a good standard of football, but I'll just have to wait and see where it takes me."

Woodbridge Town manager Mick Stockwell said: "He's improving all of the time. He's still young and he's still learning. There's scope for him to keep improving.

"I certainly think he can play at a higher level but that's down to him. He's doing well in our league and he has just got to keep working hard and keep learning. Then we'll see how far he can go, hopefully with Woodbridge, but you never know.

"At the end of the day he's done very well and it's all credit to him."

n. Do you have a heartwarming story like Ben's? Call the Evening Star news room on 01473 324788.