Lewis Kinsella on Jack Grealish's generosity with injury fundraiser

In an exclusive interview with Sky Sports, Aldershot defender Lewis Kinsella discusses his decision to use crowdfunding to help pay for a major knee operation - and why the support of Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish and others is inspiring him in his recovery

Aldershot's Lewis Kinsella

"I literally just put the page up and then my mum was on the family group saying, 'Have you seen what he's donated?' I was, like, 'Who?' She said, 'Jack.' Obviously, I went on the page and saw how much he had donated. I think it's absolutely incredible."

Lewis Kinsella is discussing the actions of his former Aston Villa team-mate Jack Grealish. Soon after Kinsella launched the fundraising page to help current club Aldershot cover the costs of an operation on his knee, the Villa skipper gave £2,000 in support of his old pal.

"I never expected him to donate as much as he did," Kinsella tells Sky Sports. "Me and Jack obviously go back a long time and have stayed in touch ever since I left. We always speak. I went to watch him at Wembley. We are good friends but I did not ask him, I did not pre-warn him or anything.

"I just want to make sure people see that because he has had a lot of bad press but the stuff he does for other people is a lot more than many others do. He does a lot of work that goes unnoticed that I know of in the Birmingham community and with the charities. It has taken off and without him doing that, I do not think I would be anywhere near."

Kinsella damaged his knee ligaments for the second time this year when Aldershot took on Ebbsfleet earlier this month. It was a devastating blow compounded by the knowledge that the club at which he has spent the past three years is already struggling financially. The costs of an operation and the subsequent rehabilitation can run to £10,000.

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - MARCH 20:  Lewis Kinsella of Aston Villa  during the NextGen Series Quarter Final match between Aston Villa U19 and Olympiacos U19 at
Image: Kinsella in action during his younger days as a youngster at Aston Villa

After some thought, the 26-year-old defender decided to launch a GoFundMe page. He held out no great hope that it would make much of a difference in these troubling times.

"I was not sure whether it was going to be a good idea or not at first," he admits. "I was not sure how many people would donate and whether I would look like a bit of an idiot. But I thought that if I got £500, that would be £500 that the club would save on the operation.

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"The club said it would pay straight away but I know that clubs in the National League are going to suffer unless there is support. The club have been really good to me over the last three years, giving me an opportunity to play every week, and I just thought that if I could do something back, it might help soften the blow because these operations are not cheap."

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Aston Villa's Jack Grealish talks about improving as a captain and a leader

He was wrong to underestimate the support. Grealish's contribution might have set the ball rolling but many others followed. Kinsella has now passed the £10,000 mark.

"It is unbelievable," he says. "The support that I have had has just taken off. To be able to give the club back some money that will pay back the operation, I am just delighted."

Aldershot's board has donated £1,000. The supporters' club has contributed another £500. The identity of others has been both varied and surprising - even to Kinsella himself.

"Ty Browning from Everton," Kinsella exclaims. "He has obviously come across it on social media and donated £250. For someone I have never even had a conversation with and probably played against once in a reserve game, it is just incredible.

Tyias Browning of Guangzhou Evergrande looks on during the AFC Champions League Group F match between Guangzhou Evergrande vs Melbourne Victory on April 10, 2019 in Guangzhou, China.
Image: Former Everton player Tyias Browning is now at Guangzhou Evergrande

"Morgan Ferrier has donated £450. I spent eight years with him at Arsenal and we have since gone our separate ways. For him to donate that amount of money is amazing as well.

"Even the people who have messaged me saying that this is all they can afford at the moment, it all helps. I am very lucky to have played for Villa and Aldershot because both sets of fans have been brilliant. It is just amazing. It means so much to me."

Kinsella's difficulties began in February when he damaged his medial collateral ligaments. It was a grade-two tear, a three-month injury. But when lockdown followed, his rehabilitation work was compromised. Down the pyramid, the same support structure is not in place.

"I could not see a physio," he explains. "By the time that I did see one, it was probably a bit too late. I did not have enough gym equipment at home and I did not have a physio at hand who I could ask whether it should be sore and stuff like that. I was working through pain that I probably should not have been doing but you just don't know."

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Even though that injury "did not heal as well as it should have done", Kinsella was advised by "four top physios" that he was good to go again. "They told me I should be fine because I had done everything right," he adds. But all that changed when he went in for a challenge.

"I was playing in a game against Ebbsfleet and I just went to flick the ball, like a stab tackle, but I did not make contact with the ball or the man, I just made contact with the air.

"I felt this sharp shooting pain down the MCL again. It went really stiff. I knew it did not feel right but I did not think that I had torn it because I was not in as much pain. When I saw the specialist, it was a rupture of the same ligament. They want to reconstruct my ligaments by putting in two plastic ligaments that will almost guarantee I won't do the injury again.

"Unfortunately, it is expensive."

Jack Grealish of Aston Villa during the Carabao Cup Second Round match between Burton Albion v Aston Villa at Pirelli Stadium on September 15, 2020 in Burton-upon-Trent, England.
Image: Grealish set the ball rolling for Kinsella with a £2,000 donation

Thanks to the support of friends, fans and complete strangers, that will not be a problem now. Kinsella has his operation booked in for the first week of October and is already looking forward to using an anti-gravity treadmill in Reading that will allow him to start running sooner without putting the same strain on the knee. It will aid his recovery.

The past year has been challenging physically and mentally. By his own admission, Kinsella became "very snappy" after being confined during lockdown and unable to exercise after the first injury. This time around, he is more comfortable, buoyed by the support that he has received.

"It just shows that the football world is a small one and people are together. I know there are rivalries but everyone loves football and it is a massive community. It has cheered me up. I just want to get the operation out of the way now and look forward. I want it out the way so I can begin paying back all the people who have contributed on the pitch."
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