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Stephen Darby in today's Times

Discussion in 'City Talk' started by Silverbantam, Jul 13, 2019 at 10:50 PM.

  1. Silverbantam

    Silverbantam Well-Known Member
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    I've pasted this article in full because it's behind a paywall.

    OLIVER KAY

    ‘Stephen Darby is more worried about his friends, family and Steph than himself’

    Oliver Kay speaks to some of those closest to the former defender, who had motor neurone disease diagnosed last year, about how he and his wife, England women’s captain Steph Houghton, have coped

    "Something was wrong — or at least not right. Stephen Darby was feeling weak during training sessions. His speed and his stamina were fine, but power and strength were not. He could not generate any distance on throw-ins and now, driving home from training, he had a sudden loss of feeling in one of his arms. What was going on?

    He hoped that it was only the creakiness that older players had warned may start to hit him in his late 20s, but it definitely wasn’t right. He went to see the Bradford City medical staff, who, sharing his concern, referred him to various specialists.

    He faded from the first-team squad, feeling like a shadow of himself, but nobody could pinpoint what was wrong.

    Spool forward 18 months, to last September, and Darby was preparing for the latest in a series of hospital appointments. The symptoms had got worse and, having made only five appearances since joining Bolton Wanderers the previous year, the former Liverpool youngster feared that his playing career was over.

    “I went into the meeting with him, thinking how awful it would be for him if he had to retire,” his agent Matthew Buck, of the Professional Footballers’ Association, says. “Never in a million years did we expect him to be diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease.”

    Darby’s world was plunged into darkness. There is no known cure for MND, a degenerative disorder that causes progressive muscle weaknesses and, in most cases, dramatically shortens life expectancy. The bare facts that were spelt out to him were horribly, brutally stark.

    He called his parents and his brother Kevin to tell them. He called his wife, Steph Houghton, the captain of the England women’s team who was on Champions League duty in Madrid with Manchester City. They had got married less than three months earlier — “the best day ever,” as Houghton described it, posting a picture of bride and groom hand in hand, grinning ear to ear among their family and friends in a beautiful lakeside setting in Cheshire.

    And now he was sharing this devastating news with her, just about the worst imaginable for a couple of newlyweds.

    —————

    “Darbs and I have been mates since we were nine years old,” Jay Spearing, the Blackpool midfielder, says. “We’re both scousers, both Liverpool fans, and we were dreaming of getting into the first team. Even at nine, he was Mr Professional. He always did everything properly, to the best of his ability. He’s still exactly the same — the same Darbs, the nicest person you will ever meet. You won’t find anyone in the world with a bad word to say about him.

    “We came through the ranks together. We won the FA Youth Cup together twice. We would drive each other on. I was absolutely delighted for him when he made his debut under Rafa Benítez [in a League Cup tie against Tottenham Hotspur in 2008]. Then we both made our Champions League debuts together against PSV Eindhoven a few weeks later. That was a really special moment for both of us. It was surreal looking back to turn around and see him there at right back, the two of us playing in the Champions League. We were both thinking, ‘Wow, we’re doing what we dreamt about as kids.’ ”

    Neither managed to become a regular at Anfield — Spearing made 55 appearances in all competitions, Darby seven — and their careers progressed on parallel lines as they dropped down a level, to Bolton and Bradford respectively, in pursuit of first-team football. Darby was part of a Bradford team that knocked out Wigan Athletic, Arsenal and Aston Villa en route to the 2013 League Cup final, where they met their match against Swansea City. Many young players struggle to cope with the adjustment when dropping down the divisions but Darby excelled at Bradford, winning all seven of the club’s player-of-the-year awards in his second season.

    Darby was not scaling the heights he had dreamt of as a starry-eyed teenager at Anfield but his career was a source of great pride. Things were looking up in his personal life too. He had fallen head over heels in love with Houghton after their eyes met across a PFA committee room. Life was great.

    “We would talk all the time,” Spearing says. “We’re very close. We have the same agent. Our families have become very close too. I remember him ringing me and saying his arm had gone weak when he was driving and that he was going to ask the doctor about it. He felt something wasn’t quite right and I knew that, as time went on, he was struggling.

    “The day of the diagnosis, he called me up and said: ‘I’ve got some news.’ When he told me what it was, I broke down. I couldn’t believe it. It hit me very hard but he kept telling me everything was going to be all right. He seemed more worried about his friends and his family and Steph than he was about himself, even though he was the one with this terrible disease.”

    “The way Stephen dealt with that diagnosis will live with me for ever,” Buck says. “Even before we left the specialist’s room that day, he was saying: ‘I want to help people. There must be something I can do to help other people who have got this.’ For as long as I’ve known him, since he was 17, that is how Stephen has been. He always puts other people before himself.”

    —————

    When Darby and Bolton revealed his diagnosis — and of course his immediate retirement — five days later, there was an outpouring of shock, sympathy and support across the football community. There were messages, public and private, not only from former Liverpool team-mates such as Jamie Carragher, Steven Gerrard, Pepe Reina and Xabi Alonso but also from those who had played with him at Bradford and Bolton. There were touching gestures from Phil Parkinson, who managed him at both of those clubs, and Benítez , who gave Darby his Liverpool debut.

    Houghton’s Manchester City and England team-mates rallied around her and her stricken husband. Manchester United’s women’s players invited him to join them in a skydive to raise money for the Motor Neurone Disease Association. He accepted the invitation, taking the plunge from a height of 15,000 feet.

    “We have seen the best of football in the way that the various clubs and individuals responded,” Buck says. “Stephen and Steph were so grateful for that, but Stephen would say: ‘What must it be like if you don’t have that network behind you? What if, instead of being a 29-year-old footballer with a loving wife and family and wider support network and some financial security, I was a 29-year-old plasterer who didn’t have any of those things? How does someone in that situation cope with something like this?’ ”

    Darby joined up with Chris Rimmer, a family friend and former soldier, to set up the Darby Rimmer MND Foundation to support others with the condition. Parkinson and the Bolton assistant manager Steve Parkin raised more than £20,000 with a coast-to-coast cycle ride from Workington to Tynemouth. Staff and supporters from his former clubs are to raise funds by walking 65 miles from Bradford, via Bolton, to Liverpool. Bradford, whose new away kit includes the foundation’s logo, will host Liverpool in a pre-season friendly tomorrow. “The two clubs proposed it as a benefit match for Stephen,” Buck says. “Stephen wouldn’t hear of that. He was adamant that the match would benefit the foundation, not himself.”

    Rimmer, who is confined to a wheelchair, has been a source of inspiration as well as support. “Chris is further into his diagnosis,” Buck says. “He knows that MND is life-defining but he has the mentality that he wants to beat it, rather than just taking for granted what the doctors say. Stephen has found him inspirational. They are both very strong mentally. They came up with the social media hashtag #attackMND. They want to fight back against it. They support each other hugely.”

    —————
     
    Ricky, Doodle, BL_ and 9 others like this.
  2. Silverbantam

    Silverbantam Well-Known Member
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    Part 2:

    "
    For all the support he has had from the football community, including fans of many clubs across social media, and from those, such as Rimmer, who live with MND, Darby’s greatest source of strength has been his parents, his brother and of course his wife. “Steph has been absolutely incredible,” Spearing says. “For as long as they’ve been together, they’ve supported each other in and out of football. They’re a perfect couple, a perfect match. She is his rock and he is her rock.”

    Houghton wondered whether they should take an extended break from football. This summer’s World Cup was looming but it paled into significance next to her husband’s diagnosis. “Stephen insisted Steph should play [for Manchester City] the following week,” Buck says. “He didn’t want her to take a break or to think about retiring. She had big goals of her own to achieve, big competitions she wanted to win, and Stephen encouraged to focus on that.

    “They are an incredibly close couple. They give each other strength. Steph is one of the most resilient people you would ever meet. I think football has been an outlet for her over the past ten months. With everything else she has had to deal with, she has needed that.”

    If anything, Darby’s illness intensified Houghton’s desire for World Cup glory in France this summer. “It’s driven by Stephen,” she told the Mail on Sunday in April, the only time she has discussed the matter publicly. “He wants me to go. He says ‘Get out of the house.’ He has been an unbelievable person in the way he has dealt with it. The ultimate thing for me is to make him proud.”

    Darby was in France, beaming with pride and sharing his wife’s joy as England beat Scotland, Argentina, Japan, Cameroon and Norway, raising hopes that Houghton might be the victorious captain. He was there in Lyons eight days ago when, at 2-1 down to the United States in the semi-final, with six minutes remaining, she stepped up to take a crucial penalty, which was saved by Alyssa Naeher. She described herself afterwards as “heartbroken”. “At that time after the game,” she said a couple of days later, “you just need a hug off your mum, dad, husband, whoever it might be.”

    “There were tears and a lot of emotion afterwards,” Buck says. “There was nothing Steph wanted more in football than to win the World Cup. To go out in those circumstances was very tough but she will bury that hurt deep and she will focus on Stephen, just like he has been focusing on Steph. Those two can keep things in perspective better than anyone I know.”

    —————

    Darby has tried to keep out of the public eye since his diagnosis. He does not want the attention except when he and Rimmer come to launch their foundation over the next couple of months. It is not about him, he says. Tomorrow’s match really is about him, though. Fans from Bradford and Liverpool snapped up all 25,000 tickets in a matter of hours, eager to show him their support.

    “He’s looking forward to it,” Spearing says. “He’s no different in himself. He’s still going out to the gym, still playing golf. He was going back and forth to France to support Steph at the World Cup, driving friends and family around. He has enjoyed having some time together with Steph after the World Cup.

    “He’s enjoying himself, enjoying his life. He’s looking forward to throwing himself into the foundation work because he wants to help people. Sunday is the start of that. He knows he has got this awful disease but he’s determined to fight it in a very positive way.”

    “He’s amazing and so is Steph,” Buck says. “The way they have dealt with all of this is incredible — inspirational, I would say. They are two people who give so much to everyone around them and they take very little. They’re both very strong individuals. They have been like that for as long as I’ve known them. Together they’re unstoppable.”
     
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  3. Silverbantam

    Silverbantam Well-Known Member
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    The most interesting part of this article was the fact that he had symptoms and was struggling 6 months before leaving City. No wonder Stuart didn't pick him near the end of his time with us.

    How on earth did he pass the medical at Bolton ?
     
  4. Flying Duck

    Flying Duck Well-Known Member

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    For what it's worth, there is a nice sort of comfort to be had in telling everyone to get on with life while your sick.

    It's great to have a support group but you don't wanna see everyone's life come to halt because of your own circumstances.
     
  5. JonButterfield

    JonButterfield Well-Known Member
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    I suppose it takes some time to diagnose, and a sports medical isn't going to go anywhere near ruling out enough issues to conclude MND or anything like it. It's very difficult to diagnose because I think the symptoms are like so many other ailments. A bit like MS, the doctors will rule out everything else before they draw a conclusion, there isn't a single test for MS, and I doubt their is for MND.
     
  6. Flying Duck

    Flying Duck Well-Known Member

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    Undiagnosed I'm thinking. You can feel parts of your body getting numb, likes pins and needles, so you don't pay attention all that much because you just don't know.
     
  7. JonButterfield

    JonButterfield Well-Known Member
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    One of the classiest professionals on and off the pitch.
     
  8. king karl

    king karl Administrator
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    Apparently Dropping things and tripping up are early symptoms
     
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  9. Silverbantam

    Silverbantam Well-Known Member
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    I think if Stephen wasn't a professional footballer he wouldn't have been diagnosed yet.
     
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  10. Faithful Bantam

    Faithful Bantam Well-Known Member

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    I’ve never met him, but he sounds a remarkable bloke.

    It’s a truly awful disease. At least he has that strong support network around him.
     
  11. Sergio Pinto III

    Sergio Pinto III Well-Known Member

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    It was the power in his arms affected at that time. Probably doesn't come into play during a football medical. All about heart rate and legs I guess.
     
  12. Sheffield Bantam

    Sheffield Bantam Active Member

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    Looking forward to today.

    Hope we raise a shedload of cash and really show our support for our former captain.

    First time I’ve been excited to go to VP in such a long time too!
     
  13. Bronco

    Bronco Well-Known Member
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    Thanks for posting that article @Silverbantam.
    Going back to his last season at the club where he only had the odd game no one would hqavethought about Darb's having anything like this terrible desease as McMahon was so consistant in that position.
    Roll forward to his first game for Bolton on Sky against Leeds and Dallas gave him a torrid time, many commenting the step up to the Championship was too much for the lad, what we'd give for a bit of hinsight at ths time.
    Lets give Darbs a day at Valley Parade he'll never forget and there have been a few in his time with us that he must have thought nothing can better this.
    There are many things as City fans we remember as individuals the late show by Hanson at Notts County, coming back from what seemed a lost cause at home to Burton Darbs getting the winner stopping Wigan from scoring and beating them on penalties, as they say "it's a funny old game" and when we get situations like this club loyalties go out of the window and football fans come together for the cause and today there is no better cause than supporting Stephen Darby and his charity.
     
    #13 Bronco, Jul 14, 2019 at 9:44 AM
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2019 at 1:10 PM
  14. Hoochy-Min

    Hoochy-Min Well-Known Member

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    Your lack of tact knows no bounds.
     

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