Foot­ball saved my ,s life dad

And emo­tional story of how BEN JONES tells the af­fec­tion­ate a love for Sut­ton United helped tran­form his fa­ther’s health

Late Tackle Football Magazine - - Personal Experience -

Iknow what you’re think­ing from the ti­tle, that you are about to read a biopic real life drama, the likes of which Uni­ver­sal Pic­tures would be in­ter­ested in, an amaz­ing event that oc­curred at a lowly English club in the foot­ball pyra­mid that saved a hu­man life.

Maybe this drama can un­ravel as a man stum­bling home af­ter a night out. He falls over a mo­tor­way bridge and is mirac­u­lously saved by his Sut­ton United foot­ball shirt as it is caught up in a hook stick­ing out from un­der the bridge. Or it could be that Sut­ton’s man­ager, Paul Doswell, has heal­ing hands. But, no, th­ese two events didn’t hap­pen.

What did hap­pen was an event far greater. It showed hu­man spirit, friend­ship and the love of a non-league club and all that went with it. And it saved a man’s life...my dad, Ian.

So let us be­gin. On a Satur­day three years ago dur­ing the in­ter­na­tional break I was relieved that I wouldn’t be sit­ting watch­ing my beloved Crys­tal Palace for 90 min­utes, as the Novem­ber cold was here with a vengeance. To avoid laz­ing around the house and get­ting caught by the mis­sus where she would in­evitably write the Magna Cata of jobs for me to do around the house, I grabbed the keys and went out for a hair­cut, break­fast and a quick ac­cu­mu­la­tor bet. It was then off to my old man’s to watch the scores come in. This visit hap­pened ev­ery other week when Palace were ei­ther away or had a Sun­day or mid­week game.

Dad was two months re­tired from a head­ship at a lovely lit­tle pri­mary school in Kingston-onThames where he had the role for 28 years. Do not imag­ine your typ­i­cal head teacher as my dad was rem­i­nis­cent of Colin Firth’s char­ac­ter in Fever Pitch. He was so pas­sion­ate about sport that some­times I would get the feel­ing that a gov­ern­ment school in­spec­tion would run a dis­tant sec­ond to or­gan­is­ing Sports Day. it had be­come ev­i­dent lead­ing to his re­tire­ment that me and dad had drifted apart a bit, not due to an ar­gu­ment, my job just got in the way. I felt guilty for this as he had so much time on his hands and we al­ways have been the best of mates. From mu­sic to sport we shared the same pas­sions and made th­ese Satur­days our time for catch up.

Ben (mo­bile): Ten min­utes away old timer, I have no clue on this ac­cu­mu­la­tor to­day, ain’t bet on League 2 for as old as you are.

Dad (mo­bile): Hi mate was gonna call just then, weird. Fancy a curry af­ter re­sults? Just got a lit­tle some­thing to dis­cuss with you, noth­ing to get wor­ried about!

Wor­ried? I was now ter­ri­fied for two rea­sons. One be­ing he was go­ing to call. In two years he had rung only once to say he had locked him­self out of the house at a piv­otal time dur­ing watch­ing the Ry­der Cup and wanted help smash­ing the win­dow. Se­condly, he said not to worry!

“It’s can­cer mate, but the doc­tors are very pos­i­tive and they will op­er­ate next week. Let’s hope we get some luck with Rock of Gi­bral­tar run­ning in the 3:30”

That was my Dad in a nut­shell! Some­thing’s wrong but let’s looks at some­thing pos­i­tive to hide the fact that every­body in the room is scared. And so be­gan the fight.

Now the fight against can­cer wasn’t the prob­lem it was the af­ter ef­fects that took the toll. No longer was he go­ing to be able to play sport ev­ery day and the fact that he’d just re­tired meant he would spend days not do­ing any­thing un­til it all came to a head one Tues­day night.

My Gran­dad used to box and play foot­ball with Bill Shankly and rep­re­sented the Royal Air Force with him dur­ing the Sec­ond World War. He was a hard­ened Lon­doner who had seen it all. I re­mem­ber he was in need of a wheel chair in his last years so he could go out but of­fers of this were al­ways re­ceived with a “Piss off”.

This stub­born na­ture, al­ways giv­ing off the im­pres­sion that noth­ing was wrong was in­stilled in my Dad at a young age, but that Tues­day his tone was dif­fer­ent. “You okay Dad.” “Hacked off with ev­ery­thing if truth be hold.”

“Let’s get some fresh air; you’ve been stuck in here all day”

We walked along Gan­der Green Lane, where he had moved the pre­vi­ous year. Al­though he loved the house, he wasn’t too keen on the area. Don’t get me wrong, there weren’t groups of youths hold­ing daily meet­ings on the cor­ners of ev­ery street, or yobs on mo­tor bikes or mug­gers down the back­streets. But in Gan­der Green Lane he felt de­tached from ev­ery­thing.

You see Dad could no longer drive as an eye con­di­tion had formed af­ter the surgery. I joked with him say­ing I would rest easy know­ing he was off the road but, all jokes aside, af­ter the surgery this had hit him hard. Reg­u­lar vis­its to the hos­pi­tal were met with long waits at the bus sta­tion. It was be­com­ing the last straw...as he told me on that walk around the block.

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