Kidney op footballer Ryan Starkey has got a Cam-do attitude

An ardent local footballer who refused to let kidney disease blight his life has made an emotional return to action after a transplant saying: 'I was determined not to let it beat me.'

Despite deteriorating health problems, goalkeeper Ryan Starkey has carved out a successful career with Camden Tavern over the years, even enjoying Carrow Road success with the Yarmouth outfit in 2007.

But at the end of last season he was forced to reluctantly give up playing the game he loves to fully focus on his health.

In August he received the 6am phone call which has since transformed his life as a dash to Cambridge was followed by a successful five-hour kidney transplant operation at Addenbrooke's.

Now Ryan, 28, who has battled kidney problems all his life and used to undergo four-hour dialysis sessions three times a week – is urging other sufferers to stay as positive and active as possible, however dark the outlook may seem. 'I have met a few other people with the same condition and I have told them that just because you have got this doesn't mean it's the end of things – it's actually the start. There is a life to be led if the attitude is right,' he insisted.

Recently Ryan turned up to Camden's game expecting to run the line but instead was offered the number one jersey after managers Luke Price and Steve Bishop told him regular keeper Robert Thornton was out with a shoulder injury sustained during the Norfolk Sunday Senior Cup semi-final against AFC Wanderers.

It was an offer Ryan felt he could not refuse.

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'For the first 10 or 15 minutes I felt really nervous but I got a save in and it felt really good. My kicking wasn't great but we won 4-0. I kept a clean sheet and it was just great to be back and involved again. It was brilliant – I felt like I should have done it sooner,' he said.

Ryan, who used to have to sleep for up to three hours after games because of illness and exhaustion, hopes to keep playing this season by turning out for Camden's Reserve team but is ready to step up to the first team as and when needed, which could even mean a Carrow Road date as Camden will play Marlborough in the Norfolk Sunday Senior Cup final on May 16. 'Robert is the regular goalkeeper so I don't expect to play at Carrow Road but I have been with the club for years and I will be there one way or the other,' said Ryan, whose mother Kerry Taylor jointly owned the Camden Tavern for 20 years.

He has also turned out for Saturday sides MK United, Norton Athletic, Town Hall and Catfield and is currently secretary for the Pub on the Shrubs Yarmouth and District Saturday League.

Ryan, who lives in Gorleston with his fiancee Rowena and three-year-old son Harry, recalled: 'I was in hospital for a week but the new kidney started working the next day. All I know is the kidney was from someone of my own or a similar age. Round about Christmas I was feeling a lot better in myself and I thought January or February would be the time to start playing again if I could. I turned up to run the line but the managers basically gave me the top and said 'how about it?''

He will be eternally grateful to the kidney donor as well as the surgeons who have given him a new lease of life: 'I can't thank the hospitals I have been at, the James Paget and Addenbrooke's, enough.'