BAT­TLING JOE IS AN IN­SPI­RA­TION

The Football League Paper - - NEWS - By Dan Barnes

JOE Thomp­son stands tall as a sym­bol of hope that tran­scends the game. That may sound grandiose at first but per­haps less so when you con­sider that the Rochdale mid­fielder has beaten can­cer not once, but twice and is now work­ing to­wards lac­ing up his boots once again. In March, the 28-year-old’s life was thrust into tur­moil for the sec­ond time as he dis­cov­ered that the nodu­lar scle­ro­sis Hodgkin lym­phoma he had suc­cess­fully over­come in 2014 had re­turned. Fa­ther-of-one Thomp­son was put through the wringer of all wringers once again but re­fused to sub­mit to his ill­ness and, on June 21, he was able to tri­umphantly tweet: ‘THOMP­SON 2 Can­cer 0’. The sto­ries of Wolves’ Carl Ikeme and Mid­dles­brough’s An­thony Ren­ton, who were both re­cently di­ag­nosed with leukaemia, and young Sun­der­land fan Bradley Low­ery, who died last month at the age of six af­ter a long bat­tle with neu­rob­las­toma, res­onate with Thomp­son, so does he be­lieve that his ex­tra­or­di­nary tale can in­spire oth­ers forced to face such hard­ship?

“It feels ex­treme say­ing it, but I do feel like I am prob­a­bly some­thing that they will keep an eye on, be­cause we’ve all been in the same boat – we’re all foot­ballers, we’re all com­pet­i­tive, and it is a disease that af­fects so many,” said the Dale man.

“I’m in a good place to be able to talk about it and I did feel like it would raise aware­ness, be­cause I’ve come out the other end.

“I’ve spo­ken to all those lads and there are a lot of ques­tions that they can’t an­swer them­selves, whereas I can now look back hav­ing done it and make light of it, spread a mes­sage, but also be pos­i­tive for them as well.

“I do kind of feel like some peo­ple are sur­prised when it af­fects a foot­baller be­cause they seem in­vin­ci­ble at times and they put them up on that pedestal. But it can af­fect any­body and it does af­fect any­body.

Mes­sage

“Get­ting through it twice; I am proud of the achieve­ment in a way. But it’s just one of those things – when it’s thrown on your toes, I would ex­pect you to do the ex­act same thing.

“I’ve said to nu­mer­ous peo­ple now that I do and did look at it like a foot­ball match; you win or I win – pretty sim­ple.

“I’m go­ing to go to penal­ties, you know what I mean? But when it’s a game of life, it’s not to be taken for a joke.”

‘Nor­mal­ity’ is now the word on Thomp­son’s lips.

Hav­ing left the Christie can­cer treat­ment cen­tre in Manch­ester, which he holds in the high­est re­gard, the Rochdale man has re­turned to ev­ery­day life with wife Chantelle and young daugh­ter Thailula-Lily, and, just a few weeks ago, he re­united with his other fam­ily.

Thomp­son is nowhere near re­turn­ing to full train­ing with his club but be­ing back at Spot­land has con­vinced him that he wants to be back on the pitch by the end of the year.

“It’s been a breath of fresh air. They’ve treated me nor­mally. The ban­ter’s still the same,” he said. The man­ager (Keith Hill) has treated me the same.

“If any­one’s moan­ing about train­ing be­ing hard, I think to my­self: ‘hold on a sec­ond’but, they’ve never been in my sit­u­a­tion, so they can’t see it through my eyes.

“(I want to be back by) Novem­ber or De­cem­ber. It’s a re­al­is­tic time-frame as well. It might be a bit longer.

“It’s just com­pet­ing; I love to com­pete and I love to win.”

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