Aldershot Town’s Lewis Kinsella has raised more than £11,000 to pay his club back after suffering a second serious knee injury in 12 months.
And the full-back has been helped in his quest to fund his operation by a £2,000 donation from his former Aston Villa team-mate Jack Grealish.
Kinsella, 26, was left in tears after rupturing his medial collateral knee ligament in his first game back earlier in September.
He now faces at least six months out.
Before the injury against Ebbsfleet United on 19 September, Kinsella had not played for the previous six months – but he has now raised £11,000 in less than a week to help National League side Aldershot pay for the operation and for his rehabilitation. He had set an initial target of £10,000.
“When you’re injured its really tough,” he told BBC Sport. “But setting up the fundraiser has been brilliant and all the messages that I’ve had has really pushed me on.
“It has been a horrendous time for non-league clubs and I would like to do as much as I can to help the club financially.
“The club have done a lot for me over the past three years.”
The 2020-21 National League season is due to begin on 3 October, though it is in talks with the government and the Football Association over financial support.
The start of the non-league campaign was pushed back in July when the government said spectators could be able to return to stadiums from October.
However, that plan for elite sport – which includes the three divisions of the National League – has now been postponed amid a rise in coronavirus cases.
“I know how much of a struggle it is at non-league level and the mountain of volunteers the National League and the non league rely on,” added Kinsella.
“And with what’s going on with Covid we’re not allowed fans in at our level. I thought if I can raise some money and pay back the club for funding my operation then it means I am helping the club in my own little way.
“Jack Grealish donated £2,000, which is amazing. I didn’t even ask him or anything, I just put it up and I got a message through on my family group chat asking if I’d seen how much he’s donated.
“We were in the same youth team at Villa growing up together, then in the reserve team together, then a bit in the first team together. We just became really good mates and we’ve been on holiday together and still keep in touch.
“There have been lots of donations from Villa fans and Aldershot Town fans and lots of people from the non-league world.”