I was totally transfixed to a recent documentary which depicted a terrible evening at White Hart Lane when a young, fit, talented man very nearly lost his life on the field of play. I found it quite emotional watching it and had a tear close to my eye pretty much throughout. It’s a weird thing, but I’m sure a lot of footballers (current and ex) feel collective pain when another “compatriot” suffers on the pitch. Almost a case of “there but for the grace of God, go I……….”
That young man, Patrice Muamba, could not have been in a better location to suffer such a serious “injury”. How stupid does that sound!!! Why is a football pitch the best place for a human beings heart to stop? On that evening, not only did Patrice have a fantastic medical team that were part of the Bolton & Tottenham staff but also, by several fortunate twists of fate, there were some pretty heavy hitters in the crowd when it came to matters of the heart!! Their expertise, perseverance and commitment to do everything to make sure that this life would not be lost, not on their watch, was miraculous. Having a promising football career cut short at such a tender age must be devastating, but the fact that he will live some semblance of a normal life after effectively being dead for 78 minutes is an amazing testament to the fight and skills of those medical professionals.
It’s not to say that every football ground in the country will see you looked after by such an impressive army of medical experts though. In no way shape or form is this a criticism of the people who fill these roles at non-league clubs, but the standard of “medical” treatment leaves a lot to be desired on many a treatment table. That said, the contribution of these people, many of whom volunteer their time for no reward, is crucial to the survival of many clubs and is not to be underestimated. In my experience, many have been truly devoted club men who will do anything for the greater good of the place from washing kit to marking pitches and everything in between.
I signed for one club who had your archetypical clubman on the medical – top man, always life and soul of the dressing room. I picked up a knee injury 15 minutes into my debut in pre season. So I spent the next 4 weeks trooping off to see the phys. One of the other lads getting treatment had been on the table for a lot longer, another knee injury but more severe than my own. Now, this was no ordinary sponge man we’re talking about here – the boy has got gadgets at his disposal as well!! The ultra sound machine was his baby and by god did he like to use it, 1/2 a tub of gel on your knee and away he went. Using the ultra sound head like an angle grinder, his logic being that the harder he pushed – the further the ultra sound would get into the injury!!! He had to have a step next to the physio table so that he could climb on and still apply pressure whilst we were hanging from the lightshade in agony!!!
Anyway, Hally had been on the treatment table for about 12 weeks and there was no sign of any improvement, couldn’t walk without pain, running was out of the question and a small flight stairs were a major obstacle. At this stage the club were starting to move on a bit so the gaffer looked to appoint a proper physio who knew an “athlete’s” arse from their elbow. He came in to assess the current crop of crocks and take over their treatment, a good handover from the outgoing “phys” ensued. As things moved on to Hally, out came the pride and joy ultra sound machine – just the sight of it put a smile on his face! He proudly went on to show the incoming phys how he was using his pride & joy to mend the players………….”Gel on the knee, flick on the switch, set the power, check the light is on and st…”
He was stopped in his tracks. This better be worth it – the man was enthusing about his super toy! Cut him off at your peril!!!!
“You do know that the light means that there is a fault with the machine and it needs to be repaired right?” Oops!!! Bonfire well and truly pissed on!!!
Would you enjoy wearing shorts made of coarse sand paper? Probably as much as I looked forward to a warm up massage from a part time physio and full time bricklayer! You’re not meant to apply deep heat to open skin wounds although the instructions probably aren’t written to account for cuts picked up during the application! The man had hands that could shave the edges off a diamond, with a grip that would have crushed 007’s neck – move over Jaws ya big fanny!
How about a young female physio? Sounds like the dream yeah? Well……..fingerless lace gloves are only so good when treating an overweight centre back in the middle of a ploughed field masquerading as a football pitch! I hope she was a good physio in reality after one of the lads dropped her off his shoulders at the end of a boozy presentation evening!!! Timber!!!!
If the sponge man doesn’t give you much confidence, you can always rely on St Johns Ambulance men can’t you? “Luckily” they were in attendance when I dislocated and broke my elbow.
Going up for a header whilst the other guy crouched down making a back for me – over the top of him I went and outstretched my arm to break my fall. The hard ground and my fat arse applying the downward pressure meant my elbow was the one to give way. I watched it pop out which was alarming enough, but was then totally helpless as the other guy fell on it too, just to make sure the job was done properly. I squealed like a little girl, no mistake – I won’t tough it out, it stung….a lot!!!
Enter the St Johns Ambulance crew!!!
An 80 year bloke who’s uniform’s last outing was during the war (Crimean) and his two side kicks, a teenage lad who was last seen playing Roland in Grange Hill and his younger sister who must weigh no more than 5 stone dripping wet. To be fair, there were a few people there to get me onto the wheely bed so I could go to their ambulance to be carted off to A&E. Trouble was, Roland’s sister felt left out so the urge to get involved overcame her. H&S must be big in the Keystone cops, textbook lifting style – bent knees, straight back grab the arm……….No not that arm!!!! Aghhhhhh, she must be able to see it’s pointing the wrong way surely?
Fortunately the gas & air is on tap once loaded into the meat wagon. Not exactly state of the art this ambulance, in fact the last time it was used the guy with a red flag was walking just in front. So the bad doesn’t clip into the side properly, every corner, every acceleration, every brake and bump had me and the bed crashing around in the back – even the gas and air wasn’t sorting me out here! Then, just to cap things off, once they had wheeled me into the A&E bed space, Captain Mainwaring had got himself trapped behind my bed. His survival instincts must have kicked in as, instead of waiting for me to get onto the proper hospital bed, he chose to squeeze past me lost his footing and fell on top of me, or more to the point, my misshapen elbow!!!
Having said all that, you just have to love and admire these guys. As players, we just turn up and expect all these things to be taken care of and thus they are taken for granted. It’s only when you take a step away that you appreciate just what they put back in to the clubs they love.
Untrained, barbaric physios……….I salute you!!!
See you at the far post.