An innocuous footballing accident has forced one of Melton’s most popular players to retire – agonisingly short of a landmark season.
Holwell Sports creative midfielder Graham Keast was advised by consultants to call it a day after he suffered a second bout of concussion.
The 37-year-old suffered the reaction after he was hit in the face by the ball during the 4-0 win at Borrowash Victoria.
He went to Queen’s Medical Centre early the following morning and had his third brain scan in two years, having suffered two broken cheekbones in separate incidents.
He said: “The scan was fine, but the consultant said it was only a matter of time before one of these injuries becomes more serious.
“I have a young family to think about and have to be sensible.
“It was a difficult decision because I’ve been at the club for so many years.
“My plan was to get fit enough to play a full season next year which would have been my 20th at Holwell, and then call it a day.”
Keast’s introduction to club football came at Melton Foxes before moving on to play youth football at Syston and Birstall.
While at Birstall he broke into the senior ranks at Holwell through the reserves before making his first team debut as a 17-year-old under legendary manager Jeff Gibbon.
Keast’s youthful potential drew admirers from further afield and he briefly played in the same Leicester City youth side as Emile Heskey.
There was also a three-month trial spell with Exeter City, but the trips to Devon didn’t interfere with Holwell business.
“My dad would drive me down to Exeter on Friday evenings and we’d stay over in a hotel,” he said.
“The game would kick off at 10am and when it was over we’d drive back and I’d arrive just in time to play for Holwell reserves in the afternoon.”
He left Welby Road aged 21 to try his luck in higher league football and spent three seasons with Rothwell, including one campaign in the Doc Martin’s Premier.
But Holwell was where his heart belonged.
He said: “There was a bit of money flying about, but for me it was always about Holwell.
“When I left Rothwell I got phone calls from other sides, but I enjoyed my time at Holwell and money was not what I was about.
“There was a prestige about playing at Holwell.”
In the short term, Saturday afternoons on the sidelines will be tough, but Keast insists his story with the green and gold has not reached its final chapter.
“I will miss the get-togethers and the changing room camaraderie, and I always enjoyed training,” he added.
“But I will keep involved with the club in some way.
“Simon has invited me into the backroom staff and long term I will hopefully become the manager when it best fits me and the club.
“I would like to go back and maybe make a difference and try to get some silverware.”