YMCA Derbyshire Community Meal

On Friday I was delighted to be invited to speak at the YMCA Derbyshire where they were celebrating the one-year anniversary of their community meal.

The meals are held at the London Road Campus on the last Friday of every month and are delivered in partnership with Head High, a new mental health community organisation.

The aim of the meal is to allow people in the community to come together, get to know each other and feel a sense of belonging. Each month local businesses and organisations are invited to send over a group of volunteers to help run the event.

This month a team from Santander were on hand to help serve the meals, ably assisted by Derbyshire cricketers, Matt Critchley and Alex Hughes, along with myself.

In a packed room, filled with enthusiastic conversation, the guests enjoyed a meal of chicken or chickpea curry, followed by bread and butter pudding.

It was clear that a healthy appetite had been built up by those who had been on the pre-meal walk led by staff from the Derby County Community Trust!

At the end of the meal, Gillian Sewell, Chief Executive of the YMCA Derbyshire announced that the 1000th community meal had been served and a cake, kindly dominated by Tesco celebrating the one-year anniversary was cut.

I was then asked to give a presentation on my trip to Kenya with the Derby County Community Trust earlier this year. This concluded with me showing an image of some of the children at the school where I volunteered, acting out the ‘YMCA’ as a thank you for the kind donation given towards the cost of my trip.

In ending my talk, I described my own battle with mental ill health and how anyone can be affected at any time in their lives. It was the first time I’ve spoken publicly about my illness, but I felt comfortable in doing so in such a supportive environment.

Congratulations to the YMCA Derbyshire, working with Head High on establishing the community meal and long may it continue.

Down But Most Definitely Not Out

So yesterday saw the Derby County Community Trust Adult CP Team travel to the beautiful City of York to play two regional fixtures.

Having spent a couple of hours on the road we arrived at our destination, the York St John Sport Complex a great new facility, which scored particularly high in my eyes as it has a Costa Coffee Shop.

Back to the football and we had our own spacious dressing room, with a welcoming sign on it, a lovely touch from our hosts, North East and Yorkshire CP Team.

On the pitch our first fixture was against Cerebral Palsy North West, whose team included George Fletcher, a current England international. In a very physical encounter, we held our own for large spells of the game before eventually going down 2-0.

Our goalkeeper, Freddie Lamb was in sparkling form, making a number of crucial blocks and saves, including one from the penalty spot.

Following defeat, we regrouped and readied ourselves in preparation for our second game, against the hosts.

An entertaining game saw us create numerous chances which on another day would have seen us score several goals but unfortunately despite our best efforts, North East and Yorkshire CP ran out 3-0 winners, which included a rather fortuitous opening own goal.

Despite the disappointment of losing both games, I really cannot fault the effort of the boys. We are a young squad who I believe have a very bright future ahead of them. Jordon Taylor, at just 17 years of age worked tirelessly on the wing before playing centre forward towards the end of our second game.

Meanwhile Dan Hardy, who has recently turned 18 continues to impress and his versatility of being capable to play in several different positions is of huge benefit in the 7 a side form of the game.

Owen Millington, another teenager is maturing into a very strong defender, whilst in Freddie Lamb we have in my opinion one of the best CP Goalkeeper in the country.

We may not have got the results we desired but our players still have every reason to have their heads held high.

UN International Day of Persons With Disabilities…it’s almost upon us

UN International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD) is fast approaching and will be celebrated on Monday 3rd December.

This year I am supporting the Purple Space ‘Purple Light Up’ campaign (www.purplespace.org/purple-light-up) which seeks to encourage organisations to illuminate their buildings purple or hold a purple themed event in recognition of IDPD.

Locally in Derby, the City Council will be focusing on the ‘purple pound’ and the refurbishment of the Market Hall.

On 4th December Mik Scarlet, a nationally renowned inclusion and equality trainer, who also happens to be an award-winning British television presenter, actor, journalist and musician is visiting Derby. He will deliver training disability equality and inclusion to all the architects and designers involved in the Market Hall project so that disabled shoppers and disabled stall holders can shop/work there in the future without any barriers.

On the evening of 3 December, the Council House will be lit up in purple and we are hoping that local businesses across the city will join in too.

Meanwhile Derby County Football Club has a number of exciting plans to promote IDPD at its home fixture on 1st December v Swansea.

On the day itself I will be at West Park Community School in Derby and will be involved in a series of activities as the pupils and staff ‘go purple’ for the day.

My ultimate aim is to turn the Palace of Westminster (Houses of Parliament) purple, but this remains a work in progress!

Previous IDPD blog:


The Goalkeeper’s Union

My young son, Michael rediscovered football during the 2018 World Cup and as the new season beckoned, he decided that he wanted to play for a team.

Having scoured the internet looking for clubs who needed players I came across a local team, Allestree Juniors Lazio and it just so happened that one of Michael’s school friends already played for them.

Michael has now played half a dozen games for Allestree Under 8’s and is loving it. For me it is great to see him following in my footsteps and playing as the team’s goalkeeper.

He is certainly taking things seriously, continually wanting me to provide him tips on improving his game as he spends hours throwing a ball against the wall in the back garden and reacting to it rebounding back at him.

Last weekend Michael tasted the first defeat of his football career and so I was intrigued how he and his team mates would react for this morning’s match.

The team played well in a very entertaining game which finished level. For his part Michael had an assured performance and it is clear that his dedication to training is paying dividends.

For me, watching as a parent I genuinely feel as nervous as the times I was pulling on an England shirt! It really is hard not to start coaching Michael during the game, but I do my best to restrict my words to those of encouragement.

At the tender age of 8 obviously the most important thing for Michael is that he enjoys his football, win lose or draw. I am therefore happy that there is always a broad smile on his face.

As he grows older results will matter but for now the fun factor is of most importance.

A diagnosis…

Having had an initial mental health assessment last week, on Tuesday I met with a Consultant Psychiatrist hoping to be given a diagnosis.

The appointment lasted around 45 minutes during which I was quizzed on my thoughts, my feelings, and generally about my life itself.

The psychiatrist concluded that whilst I didn’t appear to be portraying all the classic signs of hypomania, (which I explained was probably due to the fact that it was four o’clock in the afternoon and I’d been awake since 3am so was more than a little tired!) he would listen to the views of the CPN and my wife, Victoria and treat me for Bipolar Disorder Type 2.

I have been prescribed an anti-psychotic drug to take alongside my anti-depressant, the idea being that it will help improve my sleep and reduce the ‘mania’ I’m currently experiencing.

Due to the nature of the new medication, yesterday I had to have a series of blood tests and an ECG.  I also had to have my height and weight recorded.

I was delighted to learn that since I stopped drinking alcohol, 8 weeks ago I’ve lost around 6.5kg in weight.  Every cloud has a silver lining and all that!!

So far, my body appears to be tolerating the new drug, albeit I do have a headache most of the time and I feel a little dizzy from time to time.

That said I am now genuinely optimistic that my quality of life may now improve and that I may once again be the husband and father I long to be.

Battling Mental Illness

For all of my adult life I have battled with episodes of anxiety and depression.  Indeed, for many years I have been taking a very strong anti-depressant to treat my symptoms.

Unfortunately, this year has been far from my best in terms of battling with my poor mental health.  I’ve experienced two ‘breakdowns’ and in September I was very close to ending my life by taking an overdose of my anti-depressants.

Thankfully I didn’t, and the local Mental Health Crisis Team provided fantastic support, including the arranging of a two-hour appointment with their psychiatrist within two days.

The upshot of that meeting was that I needed to come off the ‘supplementary’ beta blocker, prescribed by my GP for the past four years as it was felt that this has probably been contributing to my anxiety!   In addition, I was strongly advised to abstain completely from alcohol.  (I’ve gone almost 8 weeks now without a drop of it!!)

After 10 days I was discharged by the Crisis Team back into the care of my GP.  However, at this stage no out patients follow up appointment was made for me.

Having spent two difficult weeks coming off the beta blocker my mood began to change rapidly, and I suddenly started feeling very ‘manic’ and was struggling to sleep for more than 3-4 hours a night.

I made an appointment to see my GP and he agreed that I needed to see the mental health team as a matter of urgency.  He made the referral by ‘fax’ and finally 3 weeks later (last Saturday) I received an acknowledgement letter in the post to say that the average waiting time for an initial mental health assessment is between 16-18 weeks.

Understandably I was less than impressed with this news and so on Monday morning I left a message for my GP to call me back and also drafted a letter to my local MP, highlighting my concerns.

Surprisingly late on Monday afternoon I received a telephone call from a CPN inviting me in for an assessment on Wednesday morning!

The appointment went well and having spent and hour and a half speaking to the CPN he concluded that I have probably got Bi Polar II Disorder (see link at end of blog) and that I need to see a psychiatrist as soon as possible to gain an official diagnosis.  The CPN also said that if my diagnosis is Bi Polar II I will need to change my medication from an anti-depressant to a mood stabiliser as this could be contributing to my current artificial high.

This morning I received a call from the CPN to confirm that I will be seeing the psychiatrist next Tuesday.

At last I am feeling optimistic that after 25+ years I may finally receive the correct treatment for my condition.


Cerebral Palsy Football…The Beautiful Game


Yesterday I had the privilege of managing the Derby County Community Trust Adult Cerebral Palsy Team in their first two national league fixtures of the season, held at the David Ross Sports Village, part of Nottingham University.

The weather could be best described as bracing as the players ‘warmed up’ for the first match against Chelsea Blue. Despite wearing three t shirts under my coat I was still chilled to the bone.

Once the action got under way I got to witness an excellent performance from the lads as they ran out 5-1 winners. Debutant Dan Hardy scored a fantastic opening goal from a long way out before Andy Riddle helped himself to four of his own as Derby dominated for long periods. Even so our goalkeeper, Freddie Lamb had to be at his very best to prevent the opposition getting back into the game.

Following a welcome hour-long break when we were able to keep warm from the elements in the dressing room, we played our second game against Chelsea White who were actually wearing a vibrant orange kit!

Again, the team were a credit to the shirt and created numerous chances in the first half but somehow, we only lead 1-0 after another fabulous strike from Dan.

The second half saw more of the same and Harry Shaw’s sweet shot nestled in the net before Andy made it 3 with his fifth goal of the afternoon. With seconds left Chelsea were awarded a dubious penalty from which they scored but as the referee blew the final whistle, nothing could stop the boys from celebrating what had been a most enjoyable afternoon of football.

Driving home I reflected on my managerial debut, which really couldn’t have gone much better. However, having been involved in football for as long as I have I know that the game is nothing if not unpredictable and that next time I may not be sporting such a wide smile.

Cerebral Palsy Football is a 7 a side form of the beautiful game with no offsides. It is played on a smaller pitch with smaller goals. From a throw in the ball can be launch overhead or the player may roll the ball into play.