John Goddard returned to action after more than three frustrating months on the sidelines and he’s more than ready to contribute to the cause over the final 20 games of the season.
“I’ve probably got 20-odd games now until the end of the season to try and contribute to get us out of this,” the former Swindon Town and Woking player told BBC Radio Kent’s Charles Webster. “I feel good, it’s a good time to come back because there’s games coming thick and fast. I felt fine out there, the injury’s good, I’ve been training for a little while so I was itching to get out there. I just wish we’d got over the line but there’s things to learn from this as a group. We’ve got no time at all until we can put it right which is a good thing and hopefully we bounce back against Dover.”
Goddard scored Fleet’s first goal this season but supporters saw him utilised in a number of different positions before he limped out of the limelight in September. So where does the 26-year-old prefer to operate?
“I’ll play anywhere at the minute and we’re a squad that needs people pulling in the same direction and the right direction and I’m definitely one of them,” he said.
“I’m quite a flexible player. Naturally, I try to drift into positions on the pitch rather than just say, right, you’re playing there. I’ve predominantly played on the left and in the 10 [role] throughout my career so those two positions would probably be my favoured.
“I’m not one that’s going to go and win 20 headers a game or smash into loads of tackles so [threading the ball through from midfield] is what I need to be doing. I try to get on the ball and make things happen and there’s always a place for that sort of player in the team.”
Goddard’s ankle injury was the first long-term lay-off of his career and he’s had to sit and watch from the sidelines as Fleet’s season has lurched from winless runs to unbeaten runs to conceding late goals.
“Fortunately throughout my career I’ve been very lucky and blessed not to have ever had serious injuries but this is something that’s now been sorted out and I’m looking forward because we’ve still got a lot of games left to try and make an impact for the rest of the season.
“I just needed surgery on my ankle. It was one of those things. I met with specialists and there wasn’t really any way around it. It wasn’t great news but it was a case of getting it done and the club have supported me with [that] and the physio staff here have worked really hard with me. It happens in football, it’s part and parcel of it.”
Now Goddard wants to help repay the club and the supporters who welcomed him back with warm applause at Dagenham on Boxing Day.
“I noticed when I came on, I got a good reception from the fans. It’s been a tough period of time for me. A lot of hard work behind the scenes, trying to get back on the pitch, it was a nice moment to do that.
“I’ve been up and down the country watching the boys and it’s not always been great but there’s been a lot I could take from. They’re trying their hearts out and we’ve come in today and everyone’s gutted. We want to do as much as we can for the club, we want to get us out of this position. The injured boys are here today, contributing behind the scenes. You’ve got Alex Lawless, Cody McDonald, experienced players and although they’re not playing, they can still offer words of wisdom and get a different insight into a few things.”
As for his return, there were mixed feelings for Goddard: relief and satisfaction at being back playing but disappointment at letting a win slip through the squad’s grasp.
“Obviously it wasn’t the ideal final result but on a personal level it’s been a matter of months out and it was just a nice feeling for me to come back,” he said. “But from an Ebbsfleet perspective, we needed to get a result today which we haven’t really got after being in a commanding position. It’s good and bad for me.
“We were talking about it in there. We changed shape a bit today and [the result] wasn’t anything to do with that, we just made some poor decisions in the final part of the game so I don’t think it really mattered what formation we’d have been playing there. It’s just a case of everyone making better decisions and doing things differently to get that result.”
A home game with Dover offers that opportunity and manager Kevin Watson hinted at introducing fresh legs. Whether two of those belong to John Goddard, that will be a call to be made by the manager and medical staff.
“I don’t know what the gaffer’s plans are,” said Goddard. “Probably the sports science team will be a little bit cautious but if Kevin asks me then I’m ready for 90 so it’s finding the right balance.”