BY RICHARD CAWLEY
Alex Gilbey has described his serious bout of Covid-19 as “scary” – with the Charlton midfielder left bedbound for two weeks.
The 26-year-old started to feel unwell just before the European Championships final in early July. And the former Milton Keynes midfielder did not make his first-team return until a 15-minute run-out in the 1-1 draw at Gillingham on September 21.
Gilbey is back to peak fitness now and believes the treatment he received for the virus has helped him come back stronger.
“I’d been to the gym and was doing a swimming session with one of the physios and I just didn’t feel myself,” he said. “As the days passed it progressively got worse.
“Then it absolutely knocked me for six. I literally couldn’t lift my head off the pillow. I was in bed for 12 or 14 days.
“You read up about it and people say it lasts for three or four days and then you start feeling like your normal self. But it really done me. I wasn’t eating and lost weight. I lost my taste and sense of smell early on.
“I never got any real issues with my breathing, it just felt like I had a really bad cold and really bad back.
“I was lying in bed trying to watch telly and take my mind off things but I couldn’t keep my eyes open – I was sleeping the whole time. It was really scary, I’m not afraid to admit that. I was scared.
“The breathing side only kicked in after I was back training. I was gradually coming back, because there is a protocol we had to stick to, but I just couldn’t do the basic stuff that I normally do every day without even realising it.
“Thankfully I had the right team around me, the physios and the doc, they sent me to the right people in London and we got to the bottom of it. I’ve got asthma, so I had to take steroids. A couple of weeks ago I had to go and see the specialist in London again and do all different lung-functioning tests – the results were really good.
“Thankfully I’m over it now and I’m feeling really fit and strong.
“As mad as it sounds it is probably the best thing that has happened to me, because we managed to get some really good work in and treatment on my lungs.”
Gilbey is set to get his first Covid-19 vaccination this week. He had been told by specialists that he had to wait two months before he could get jabbed.
It is the second successive campaign in Charlton colours that he has endured a disrupted start.
In the 2020-21 season an Achilles injury kept him out and he recently called those first six months “a disaster” that completely eroded his confidence.
Gilbey scored three goals in the run-in as Nigel Adkins’ side were squeezed out of the League One play-off places by Oxford United on goal difference.
Asked to assess his Charlton career on a personal note, Colchester-raised Gilbey said: “It’s been very disappointing.
“I showed my qualities in the last nine games [of last season]. I had a tough start but that is down to me, I ain’t going to blame anyone else for that.
“I’ve still got a lot to prove.
“I had a few good games towards the end of last season, but you can’t have a handful of games and then expect the fans to go ‘oh, he’s a good player’. You need to show people how good you are.
“That’s why I’m lucky that I’ve got 18 months, or whatever it is, on my deal. The aim is to hopefully get a new one and be at the club as long as possible. I’ve got to let my football do the talking.”
There is the same straight-talking when it comes to the Addicks’ misfiring start to the season.
A win at Lincoln City tomorrow could lift the South Londoners out of the relegation zone. But Gilbey is adamant that expectations should not be lowered.
“I naturally look at the play-offs,” he said. “That is where our marker should be.
“This club should not be where we are. As players, because that is what it falls back on, we’re massively underachieving. I feel like everyone has got the bit between their teeth. A lot of people have got a lot to prove, just in terms of how we’ve started.
“We need to climb the table and get the club to where it should be.”
Sincil Bank marked the first game under new ownership. Thomas Sandgaard completed his takeover of the football club just days before the last trip there, a 2-0 loss in September 2020.
Gilbey and close pal Conor Washington had already been signed that summer before the US-based Dane took control and staved off impending administration.
“I came in during a transfer embargo,” said Gilbey. “He saved us – simple as that.
“He deserves more – as a club, as a staff and as players. There are a lot of wrongs to put right. We need to buck our ideas up and put some wins together to show the chairman we are capable of it and good enough to play for this club.”
The latest international break arguably came at the wrong time for more than one reason.
Gilbey had just got his second 90-minute outing of the campaign and Charlton bounced back from a Valley reverse against Bolton by winning 2-1 at Fleetwood Town.
“You feel like you want to keep the ball rolling but it is what it is – we’ve had a good couple of weeks and everyone is just so excited for Saturday,” said Gilbey, who has played 192 matches in England’s third tier.
“The lads also got a really good win in the Papa John’s Trophy and that has made us even hungrier.
“This is the strongest League One I’ve ever seen, it’s like a mini Championship. You’ve got to respect everyone.”
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