Back in The Game
It all began in 2007, when my son Freddy was barely 7 years old. He was born exactly at the same time as I had my Sepsis crisis, so at this point, I was just 7 years into my recovery and rehabilitation. In other words, I was still a bit of a mess.
I was trying to shape my new life. Everything had changed for me. I’d already started back to work, in a call centre, but now I wanted something I could do independently with my boy. I wanted to spend time with him 1:1, I longed to get out of the house, I needed to give my wife a break from all the looking after.
Two guys looking for distraction. When I thought about it, the solution was obvious.
Our local football team was Leicester City and at that time they were way down in League 1 – the old 3rd division. They’d had a dramatic fall from grace, just like me. But they had a smart new stadium, and a Disabled Supporters Association that made tickets cheap and easy to come by – so I bought two of them, put Freddy in the car, and we ventured out together.
I remember that first home match vividly. It was against Burnley. It felt so good to be looking after my son on my own. For years after I became disabled, I’d wondered if I’d ever be able to take him anywhere independently. Well, now I was, and I had the comfort of knowing I had all the other DSA members around me, to back me up if there was any problem. Suddenly, my world was bigger, brighter, better.
Freddy took to it right away, and soon we even started to go to away matches. I figured it was a smart way to teach him the geography of England. We travelled on the DSA coach to Preston, Hull, West Brom, West Ham, Huddersfield, Stoke, Chelsea, Scunthorpe, Kettering, Birmingham, Spurs, Exeter. For a young lad from a small market town, it was an education all in itself.
It was about so much more than football. Freddy saw the best and the worst of human behaviour. He learned fast.
And it was bold. On the one hand, as a quadruple amputee, I was naturally nervous about what might go wrong – in a crowd of 30,000, I could never be confident I was fully in control. We all know that kids can be unpredictable. But it turned out fine – I soon realised that I was surrounded by countless other Mums & Dads who were ready to intervene in any kind of crisis. Grown ups, who would reach out and help if I needed a hand. This filled me with confidence, and suddenly I was part of a new community. I was being healed.
Now Freddy is 18 – how did that happen? We’re still season ticket holders at LCFC. In 2015, when the club won the Premier League, Freddy & I went to every game. It was magical. We shared the football experience of a lifetime and my son saw that the impossible can come true. You can’t buy that kind of understanding. Freddy is of course independent now, I don’t have to worry. He has many friends in the stadium and often disappears to spend time with them during a game. I’m so proud of the young man he is becoming. Today, we’re travelling to Peterborough to watch them play Leicester in the FA Cup. It’ll be a proper, old fashioned football experience.
Freddy and I will be a part of the big occasion. We’ll be involved. We’re so looking forward to it.
Back in the game, after Sepsis nearly killed me. With my precious son. Football has taken us a long way together, and mended something inside of me that I thought was broken.