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'There's nothing left of him'...
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'There's nothing left of him' | Chris Sutton on his father's dementia battle

Shane Hannon
Shane Hannon

13:00 13 Aug 2020

Chris Sutton has opened up about his father's story of dementia, and his anger at the lack of action being carried out by footballing authorities to keep players safe.

The former Celtic and England striker has a new book out called You're Better Than That! How To Fix Modern Football, in which he discusses his vision for the game.

One area of interest for Sutton is the link between heading footballs and dementia, and he told Eoin Sheahan on OTB AM why it is an important topic for him and his family in particular.

"My Dad was a former player and he's now in a care home not far from where I live. He suffers from dementia, he's probably had it for the best part of a decade.

"He's in a really bad way now - he doesn't know how to eat, he can't go to the toilet properly, I'll go and see him [and] he doesn't know who I am, he doesn't know who my Mum is.

"It's been a gradual decline from being forgetful initially, where his car keys were... He's a local Norwich man and the first real sign of concern from our point of view was when he went to watch my son play locally and he took his car and he couldn't find his way home.

"From then on... We started to get quite fearful and scared of what was actually going on. He's just been in gradual decline.

"Now he's a shadow of what he once was, he's not there anymore. I'll go and sit with him, I'll hold his hand, I'll talk to him, and I just hope that something is getting through.

"There's a lot of other people who suffer as well, my Mum has been with my Dad for 56 years and it's heartbreaking for her. In the early days and for years she looked after him but he would go missing.

"We'd get calls from people saying where he was and it was such a worry, it just became impossible for my Mum to look after my Dad.

"There's nothing left of him. He was a strong man, a strong character, an intelligent man."

Sutton says he feels authorities within the game can do much more to help.

"I know this isn't an isolated incident with former players. It's been a problem for so many years, and it hasn't been tackled properly.

"My gripe with this is the head of the players' union, Gordon Taylor, it's his duty of care to look after former players and professionals like my father.

"He knew that there was a testing process put into place. This testing process stopped, Gordon Taylor knew that the testing had stopped and never flagged it up for over a decade.

"What could have happened within that decade had he just said 'Okay, the testing has stopped for whatever reason because these things don't always work and we understand that'?

"It's not going to save my Dad. My Dad is dying the most horrible, horrible death imaginable. But it may save future generations to come.

"What will happen is the likes of my generation, 15 years on, 20 years on or even less than that... family members when we are suffering from dementia will say why on Earth didn't we do something?

"Why on Earth was there not more effort put into funding to try and find what this link is between heading a football and dementia?

"There should be a far greater urgency within the game than there is. I think that's a massive problem. We see a lot of high-profile footballers who like to talk about politics and get involved and have their opinions - why aren't we talking about dementia?

"For the life of me I do not understand that, what chance do we have when you have the head of the PFA, an organisation which was set up to look after its members, when the duty of care just wasn't there for the likes of my Dad and thousands of other footballers and their families?

"These ex-players are rotting away in care homes, and they aren't getting the support which they should have."

A study from Glasgow University last year looked into the deaths of over 7500 footballers who played in Scotland between 1900 and 1976.

The researchers found a five-fold increase in Alzheimer's disease, a four-fold increase in motor neurone disease and a two-fold increase in Parkinson's disease compared to the general population.


Read more about

Alzheimer's Chris Sutton Concussion Dawn Astle Dementia Eoin Sheahan Otb Am

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