Youngster makes comeback for the club 11 weeks after heart surgery
Jack Sellens made his return to a Gills youth side on Sunday just 11 weeks after undergoing open heart surgery.
Jack, 15, started the game against Faversham U-17’s at Salters Lane and was handed the captains armband and a large round of applause from the rest of the squad before kick-off.
Rob, his father, is on the coaching staff for Faversham and it was his team who ran out eventual 4-1 winners, although the Gills squad was full of players significantly younger.
The entire Gillingham FC first team, and schoolboy players over the age of 14, were examined at the Priestfield screening session this April and Jack Sellens’ scan revealed a flap of skin obstructing the flow of blood from a valve to the heart (Cortriatriatum).
As a result the striker underwent surgery and missed the majority of pre-season training. However he has surprised many by returning to the game so quickly and Schoolboys Development Manager Bryan Bull was pleased to see him back.
Speaking to the club’s official website he said:
“The positive was Jack obviously getting some minutes under his belt so I was absolutely delighted.
“We said Jack would do 25-30 minutes before the game depending on how he was feeling – while he was on the pitch he showed the quality he had.
“In regards to the performance I’m pleased because we were a team of 14-year olds playing 17-year olds. We have to be realistic and we should have perhaps won it and we had chances to extend the lead before they got in to the game.
“In the middle third I was very pleased and I went away very satisfied.”
Jack himself was delighted to be back playing and wants to continue his recovery.
He said: “I had trouble sleeping the night before and I haven’t played since the final game of last season. I was looking forward to playing and it doesn’t matter what the result was.
“As soon as I knew the problem I was fairly sure that I could come back and carry on – it was a bit scary having it done but I’ve played football my whole life.
“My fitness isn’t quite there yet but after a few more weeks of hard training I can get in to the youth games.
“The target was October to get in to full contact but as the pain has gone they said I could play and it’s down to what I can take but I’m fine.”
Rob said he had no regrets whatsoever in allowing Jack to remain in the game and is stunned that he has been able to make a comeback just a few months after his surgery.
He said: “It was good to see him playing – I think he did well and as expected he ran out of steam because his match fitness isn’t there yet.
“This is what he loves doing and the operation will benefit him. There was no hesitation at all in putting him back in.”
Bryan Bull is a big advocate of using heart screenings on his schoolboy players and praised the work of the charity that conducts them.
He said: “Football League clubs don’t test their schoolboys as far as I’m aware but it’s an expensive business and if it wasn’t for Roger Maddams magnificent work he does we probably wouldn’t have been in a position to do it either.”
The heart screenings in April were conducted by the charity CRY [Cardiac Risk in the Young], and they will be carrying out another session of screenings on Thursday November 1 at the MEMS Priestfield Stadium.
These are also available to the public and you can find out more about the charity, and how to book sessions, via www.c-r-y.org.uk