WHILE his friend and former team-mate Rob Dean was told last week that his footballing career was over at the age of 24, Ben Wells is on the verge of returning to help Cirencester Town’s play-off push after nine months out of action with his own knee problems.

Wells was Cirencester’s Player of the Year last season and arguably the most influential midfielder in the Southern League.

But he lasted just 55 minutes of the club’s second pre-season friendly against Cheltenham Town last July after which it was discovered that he had torn both the anterior cruciate ligament and the lateral meniscus of his left knee.

It left him requiring surgery and the consultant insisted he would miss the whole season.

Following the PFA-funded operation, three independent visits to the fabulous facilities at England’s National Football Centre, St George’s Park, in Burton-on-Trent and plenty of rehab nearer his Swindon home, Wells has already made a much earlier-than-anticipated return.

He made a brief stoppage time cameo appearance for the first team at Taunton – a nice touch from manager Brian Hughes as it was the day after the former Swindon Town player’s 26th birthday, and last week he got through 90 minutes with the club’s Hellenic title-chasing Development Side in the 1-1 draw with Fairford Town Reserves.

Now Wells is gagging for a proper first team return.

"I got on the ball as much as possible, made some block tackles and kept out of trouble.

"I’d like to get 20 minutes for the first team because I know I can come on and shut the game down if we're winning or take some set pieces.

"I’m not ready for the physical side of it just yet because I am only 50 per cent match fit. But I have been working very hard in the gym every day so I am fit and raring to go for the play-offs."

Wells is just thankful he can restart his career, unlike his mate Dean.

"My knee is not going to be the same again, I know that, but it is how I cope with it. But Deano is going through is devastating.

“He used to be at Cirencester, too, but I played with him at Supermarine and all the Swindon lads playing in the local leagues are pretty close.

“I have told him that if ever he wants any advice about rehab he only has to pick up the phone.

"His injury is much worse than mine and he is inevitably going to have some down days but if he wants any support I am there for him because he's a good lad.”

It is a testament to the character of Brian Hughes’ side and the rapid development of some of his youth players that they have been able to compete at the top end of the division all season.

But it is no coincidence that Cirencester’s best spell coincided with the time former Arsenal and West Brom midfielder Jamie Edge was pulling the strings in midfield before he earned a pro contract at Hereford United.

Wells, who was spraying passes around like he had never been away against Fairford Reserves, has the quality to step into that role.

He also has no qualms about dislodging any long-term member of this season’s side.

“I think I played a major part in the team last season and in any case that's just football,” he said.

It is not all good news on the injury front for boss Hughes.

Combative captain Shayne Anson has sat out the last two wins against Bishops' Cleeve and Shortwood with a nagging groin problem.

He had to come off soon after half-time in the victory over Paulton the Tuesday before last.

“The suggestion is that I might have a ‘sportman’s hernia’ and I am going to see the consultant next week," he said.

“I also picked up a cheek wound from an elbow in the face in the Paulton game and I did not get home until 4am after waiting to have the stitches inserted at Gloucester Hospital."