Sometimes the big, nasty world of professional football shows its usually-hidden, more human and caring side – just when you think it’s all about winning, money, egos, money, cheating and money. Such a cynical attitude can sneak up on you unawares even if, like me, you’ve loved the game, and one club in particular, for the best part of forty years. It’s difficult to avoid it, with all that you hear going on, and with the tantrums and spats of the great and the not-so-good. But then something lovely happens, and you have a rethink.
Such an item cropped up today, in our local paper as it happens. Because I’m happy to report that it’s the story of a very brave little lad, Joseph Carolan, who happens to be local to me and who has been battling away through the different phases of chemotherapy for the treatment of Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia. Joseph was diagnosed with the disease in May last year after a visit to the doctor with flu-like symptoms. His treatment involved long hospital stays and, during these, he passed the time by keeping up with Leeds United’s games, becoming a staunch fan of the Elland Road club.
Joseph has had a rough time of it, enduring nine months of intensive chemotherapy – and he is now embarked upon a further two years of maintenance chemotherapy. It’s a grueling process, especially for one so young. Joseph has lost some of his mobility as a result of all this, and relies quite heavily on a wheelchair. He hasn’t been able to attend school either, so he’s missed out quite heavily in a few different ways.
So what better to cheer up a young football fan than a bedroom makeover in the colours of his favourite team? Happily, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, in conjunction with Leeds United Football Club, were able to step in and help arrange just that – and what’s more they managed to go one step further and give young Joseph a really brilliant surprise. For when it was time to unveil his new, Leeds-themed bedroom, none other than United midfielder Sam Byram turned up to do the honours. Joseph was naturally delighted and the happy surprise was a real fillip for him as he continues to receive the treatment his condition makes necessary. His proud dad, John, was equally thrilled at what had been arranged for the young Leeds fanatic. “Meeting Sam and having his bedroom decorated with a Leeds theme has really boosted Joseph,” he said. “The medication that he’s on can make him feel quite down, but this has really cheered him up.”
Leeds United’s talented young midfield star, Sam Byram, was delighted to be able to help make Joseph’s day when he saw his new bedroom. Sam said: “It was great to visit Joseph and see his face light up when he showed me his room. The items that the club donated have made his bedroom like a shrine to Leeds United. It’s very easy to forget sometimes what joy football can bring to people, and it was great to be able to meet Joseph and see the smile on his face.”
Joseph, from Pontefract in West Yorkshire, had been feeling poorly for some time before his diagnosis, so he’s had quite a long spell of feeling not particularly brilliant. His dad John again: “Due to his illness Joseph has unfortunately had to spend a lot of time in his bedroom so having it decorated to reflect his favourite team is really fantastic for him.”
It was particularly heart-warming to hear that a local boy, so poorly for such a long time but now battling away to get back to some normality, should have been given such a welcome boost by his beloved Leeds United – and even more so that he should have had the chance to meet one of his heroes in person as well as having his United-style room. The Make-A-Wish Foundation relies heavily on donations, and anyone who feels they would like to contribute can do so here. All credit to everyone who’s been involved with creating such a wonderful surprise for young Joseph; Leeds United might well reflect that it was only because of long spells in hospital that Joseph really got into them! But as we know, once the bug bites, it doesn’t let go – so hopefully Joseph will be a United fan for many years. From the look of the happy photographs of this event, that seems more than probable.
All the best to young Joseph for a full recovery – and Marching On Together with Leeds United to promotion.