Column: Ángel’s admirable attitude gives him a fighting chance after heartbreaking setback

Millwall vs Chesterfield - Angel Martinez brings the ball forward - Pic By James Williamson
Millwall vs Chesterfield - Angel Martinez brings the ball forward - Pic By James Williamson
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Everyone in and around Chesterfield Football Club might be feeling sorry for Ángel Martínez, but the Spaniard doesn’t appear to be feeling sorry for himself.

The news that the midfielder, who missed almost the entire 2015/16 season with a knee injury, has had to undergo further surgery, was greeted with an outpouring of heartfelt sympathy.

How could you not feel for the 30-year-old?

He played in just three games in his debut season as a Spireite, before rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament in training.

It was a freak accident, a collision with a team-mate in the final minute of a training session leaving him with a season-ending injury.

The former Millwall and Blackpool man spent seven gruelling months in the gym, rehabilitating his knee.

Chesterfield vs Port Vale - Injured pair Angel Martinez and Liam O'Neil - Pic By James Williamson

Chesterfield vs Port Vale - Injured pair Angel Martinez and Liam O'Neil - Pic By James Williamson

Missing so much football, unable to contribute as results went against his club and the manager who brought him in got the sack, must have been a nightmare scenario.

A career put on hold, no sign of a football in his training sessions, endless encounters with the treadmill and static bike.

It must have been frustrating, sickening in fact.

You wouldn’t have known it from his social media output, however.

Ángel is a beacon of positivity.

His Instagram account, albeit a frequent source of ‘selfies,’ portrays him as an optimist, a family man and a football nut.

Of course, we’re all guilty of making social media like a highlight reel with all the best bits included and the hard times edited out.

But the sheer volume of Ángel’s cheerful updates is a lesson in self help – keeping saying it until you believe it, and all that good stuff.

His online presence and interaction with supporters made him an incredibly popular member of the squad, despite having played little more than a bit part last season.

In March, Ángel returned to the training pitch for the first time and I bumped into him afterwards in the Proact reception.

‘I feel like a footballer again,’ he gushed.

He waxed lyrical about feeling the grass under his feet and the cold air – it was almost poetic.

His exuberance was infectious, but while both Danny Wilson and Chris Morgan gleefully welcomed his return to training, they warned that they’d have to put the reins on a little and protect the man from Girona.

The start of pre-season was heralded by a typical Ángel Instagram selfie and positive words about getting back to work.

But a line from within the Chesterfield camp set a few alarm bells ringing – Ángel was not yet ready to be fully integrated into the sessions.

And following an uncharacteristic period of silence on social media, the player revealed he needed another operation, the meniscus was still damaged.

In an emotion statement, he admitted to a brief period of mourning, before dragging himself back into a positive frame of mind.

“I’m very disappointed, I would say very angry with everything, but it’s not going to help me to overcome it.

“I dried all my tears, and I’m positive and strong to fight again, for my daughters, my wife, to make my family and friends proud, and to bring this club to the next level and give back all the love I’ve received in my time here.

“Nothing, absolutely nothing will remove my smile.”

How’s that for a statement of intent?

Tommy Lee might be the squad’s resident journalist-in-making, but in that post Ángel produced some of the quotes of the year.

It would take a cold heart not to want to see him succeed in this latest battle to return to the football pitch.

Chesterfield fans are desperate to see him play, which is understandable – celebrating a new signing and then being robbed of his services for almost a year is one of football’s cruelties.

Even the most battle hardened cynic in the stands will surely have everything crossed that the 2016/17 season will see Ángel take his place in Wilson’s midfield.

At the age of 30, a long term injury can have a catastrophic effect on a career.

He’s played just seven games in the past two seasons, a statistic that doesn’t bode altogether very well.

But the positivity and determination that has made Ángel’s Instagram account such a pleasure to follow gives him a fighting chance and inspires an army of supporters to cheer him on.

And we can forgive the selfies.