Football was Stan's greatest love. Now that he has dementia, his wife Candy is inspired to help in any way she can to make football more accessible for people with dementia.
My sporting loves were cricket, motor racing and rugby union, until I met Stan, my husband, in 1979. Because football was his greatest love I became – almost against my will – interested in it.
A successful coaching career
Stan was a qualified FA coach and had trained and learned alongside Mike Summerbee of Manchester City. He was a manager at Wilmslow Albion football club and our first few years together were supporting him there.
Our dates often involved me dropping him off to see players and talk tactics, rather than anything romantic, but I didn’t mind.
Stan was really dedicated and inspired incredible loyalty.
He was their Clubman of the Year 1982-83, and was so proud of that. He played for a Sunday League team into his 40s, and I’d go to watch him.
As Stan is from Manchester, he was a Manchester City fan from when he was a little kid, but as I was not from the area, I always followed Manchester United.
I changed my allegiance for him and though I didn’t go to the games with him, the two of us would enjoy watching football on TV together.
Noticing changes in Stan
Stan was diagnosed with multiple myeloma cancer in 2011. By 2014, his health deteriorated and he was allowed to have a stem cell transplant at the Royal Marsden which saved his life. A couple of years later, aged 69, as he was getting physically healthier, he was getting increasingly forgetful.
He couldn’t remember our address or the PIN for his cards.
If he was getting a taxi home from the pub, he’d ask them to let him out when he thought he was nearby, and he’d just wander around.
He got confused between numbers and letters. It took two years to get him to agree to see someone about it.
Life after the dementia diagnosis
His GP referred him to the mental health trust, and we also had a private consultation who agreed on result and outcome. He was diagnosed with mixed dementia in 2018 at the age of 71.
I felt relief that we would finally get the help and recognition we needed.
When the doctor advised him to surrender his driving licence and he agreed, that was a big relief. I’d been using various tricks to prevent him for driving because he wasn’t safe. To start with Stan was very positive about the diagnosis.
He was very open about it with his friends. But as time went on he’d occasionally get a bit angry if I reminded him.
After his diagnosis, Stan continued to go to Manchester City matches with our son-in-law Waine, so that he’d keep Stan safe.
But stadiums can be scary for people with dementia.
Unfortunately, that stopped after a while too. We used to stay at my mum’s house but she died in December 2019, so we had to stay in a Premier Inn. Stan would wet the bed or wander off around the hotel. Staff were wonderful but I found it too much for me.
Then Covid-19 came along so there weren’t any games to go to anyway.
Losing his love for the game
Now, he doesn’t follow football at all. He doesn’t know that they’re playing. He has a signed photograph of him with Mike Summerbee, but he doesn’t recognise himself there.
I miss him not having the connection with football because he so loved it. Even though I still follow what is happening in the Premier League, it doesn’t mean anything to him.
I miss his passion for football.
Feeling inspired to make sport more accessible
I was invited to get involved with the Sport United Against Dementia campaign in 2021 and am taking part on Stan’s behalf. I want to make grounds, getting tickets, and getting to games more accessible for people like Stan, because it is really tricky.
Not everyone with dementia can go online or phone up for tickets. People who don’t know someone with dementia doesn’t really understand, so I’m just trying to make it easier for people like Stan.
Inspired by her grandad and dad to get involved in sport, our 13-year-old granddaughter Freya has always played football.
She plays for her local club and has just won their Most Improved Player award. It is wonderful to see Stan’s legacy live on through Freya. She could be a future Lioness!
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