I got the tickets, the match was on, we were really excited.
My son Freddy and I are big Leicester City football fans. We’ve been season ticket holders for over a decade. When we started going to games, the team were in League One, but now they’ve hit the Premiership big time. We don’t often get to away games, but last weekend Fred spotted an opportunity and we drove down to London to watch them play Crystal Palace. I love going back to the capital, it’s where I lived for the first half of my life. And I’ve always felt these ‘away’ trips are such a great education for my son – different city, different supporters, different day.
Crystal Palace were on fire.
They play fast, one-touch football, passing quickly, running wild. Leicester simply couldn’t handle them. Palace had the match virtually sewn up by half-time, after scoring two fantastic goals. We upped our game in the second half but the pressure from Palace was relentless – Leicester had a player sent off and Crystal Palace slotted three more goals past our reserve keeper. Oh. Wow. It was a disaster. Fred & I sat through all this, taking each goal like it was a physical blow. As we tried to deal with the shock of seeing our beloved team fall apart in front of us, the taunting from the home fans began.
When I woke from my Sepsis coma, I couldn’t even remember who I was.
In April 2000, I came to after 4 entire months in a sepsis coma. My hands and feet had been amputated, my face too. I had a massive breathing tube cut into my throat and a painful catheter wired into my groin. I couldn’t move, I couldn’t speak, and all the memories of my past life – 35 years of them – had gone. I was scared, I was traumatised, I thought my life was over. My wife had to introduce herself to me and tell me who I was. I was beaten. I’d lost everything. Or so I thought.
But I was wrong.
My heart was still beating, there was a beautiful woman beside my bed, I had family and friends who still cared for me. I had love. Slowly, I started to figure out my options, and how I could adjust. I realised I could make a comeback, and play another game – although I too was 5-0 down (and more), I had time on my side, plus a huge reserve of creative determination. As damaged as I was, I had a future. In this situation, between Nic and I, it became important to look forward, not back. It was vital not to focus on what was lost, but to examine and evaluate what could be retrieved – what we could rebuild. Ever since then, for two decades, I’ve done what I can to stay positive. I work hard at it.
Freddy and I rose to our feet and applauded both teams as they left the pitch.
Palace had been brilliant. They’d shown us how football should be played. We took a moment to survey the stadium, Selhurst Park is an old-fashioned kind of ground – there are not many like it left in the Premiership. It was good to see the home fans so buoyed up by their victory. On the way out, we talked about the Crystal Palace manager, Roy Hodgson, such a nice man, always level-headed, always polite, always seeing the best in every football situation. So we didn’t win that game, but my son and I didn’t come away as losers. Just like I was determined not to let Sepsis make me a loser. We found reasons to be cheerful, and we were winners in a way – because we were able to laugh about the match, and because we had a really great day out that we will always remember.