I decided to film me and my children having a bit of fun in the garden.
Watch as we attempt the crossbar challenge. Who is victorious?
I decided to film me and my children having a bit of fun in the garden.
Watch as we attempt the crossbar challenge. Who is victorious?
When my son was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes five years ago all I could think about was whether he’d be able to play sport when he grows up.
As a footballer, I’m a very active person and lead a very active lifestyle.
As a parent, I have always wanted my children to grow up loving sport. I want them to be active just like me and not just sit on the sofa playing computer games all the time.
I worried that his diagnosis would hold him back. I thought he wouldn’t be able to participate but five years on and my perception of his condition has changed dramatically.
He is so active. He’s a very fit and healthy eight-year-old and with regards to him being able to play sport, I now have no worries.
When Jenson was first diagnosed, we used injections to administer his insulin. However, around 3 years ago we decided to change to an insulin pump. He currently uses the Medtronic 640G with CGM (constant glucose monitoring). We were struggling to control his blood sugar levels with injections and have found using the pump so much better. We have much more control now and it gives him more freedom to eat when he wants. Jenson was becoming conscious of injecting in public and it was hurting him, so it made sense to change.
I was sceptical about the pump. I didn’t like the idea of having something attached to him constantly, and thought it would restrict him in his active lifestyle.
How wrong I was.
It hasn’t hindered him what so ever. He just gets on with life. Jenson keeps his pump in a Lycra band around his waist and you wouldn’t even know it was there.
I’m so proud of how he deals with and manages his condition every day.
Jenson loves football (I wonder why?!!) and trains three times a week with various teams and plays on a Saturday for his local side.
When it comes to competitive football, Jenson will take his pump off as so not to cause any damage to it. During this time, we will check his blood sugar levels before, during and after. If he has low blood sugar levels at any point or his levels are coming down then we will give him either some jelly babies or a drink of Lucozade to give him a boost. Exercise lowers blood sugar levels, so it’s important we keep a close eye on him as he’s still just a young boy.
If the weather is ok then he will always be outside in the garden after school playing football with his brother. We don’t take his pump off when this happens and he plays absolutely fine and it never gets in the way.
Jenson has swimming lessons twice a week. Even though his new pump is waterproof we still take it off. It has worked well for us over the last few years so don’t want to change the routine.
He also enjoys golf and has had quite a few lessons. Jenson is left-handed and has a lovely golf swing. It’s certainly better than mine! As the Summer time approaches we will definitely be having a swing soon. Again, his diabetes and insulin pump have no bearing on him being able to play.
Obviously, when playing sport he can’t just do what he wants. His condition means more planning and care than other children his age. However, with the correct management he can play and compete in any sport. He can achieve anything he wants to and he is determined that his diabetes won’t hold him back in life. If anything, he embraces it! To see that my son is not letting Type 1 Diabetes effect his life in a negative way is such a remarkable feeling.
I’m so proud of him.
The highlight of my career to date has to be the League 1 Play-off final in 2005, playing for Sheffield Wednesday against Hartlepool.
The Owls eventually ran out 4-2 winners after extra-time to gain promotion to the Championship.
Watching videos of that day still give me goosebumps. It was, in a footballing sense, the best day of my life.
The fans that day were unbelievable.
Forty thousand Wednesdayites made the trip down to the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff that day, including a mini bus full of my family. It made the day even more special that they were all there to share what was an incredible day.
I remember vividly the bus journey from our hotel to the stadium. As we approached the ground through the city centre all we could see were thousands of supporters who had lined the streets. It was a sea of blue and white cheering us on and it certainly gave us all motivation and inspiration to perform. It was quite astonishing and unforgettable.
The celebrations after the match were incredible. We stopped off at a service station on the way back to Sheffield and it was manic.
The services were full of Wednesday fans and it was a carnival atmosphere. Everybody was singing and dancing. I bet the people working there had never seen anything like it before.
Once we got back to Sheffield the party carried on, but I hit a bit of a lull. I was mentally drained. It was a really hot day and the game had taken its toll on me. I was shattered, but I more than made up for it by celebrating for the next few days.
It was mind-blowing to play in that football match, and it is a day I will never forget.
If I’m talking selfishly then I quite enjoyed living in the big smoke. It was a whole new experience for me and it was good to sample life in London. It’s such an incredible city and I got to see and visit many places I would never have been to if I hadn’t of lived there.
However, as a family man, it just didn’t work. I missed my girlfriend and children, and they missed me. I only really got to see them for two days every week. It was way too far to travel every day.
In a normal footballing week, the players would get Wednesday and Sunday off. This meant traveling back up north to Leicestershire to be at home. I racked up a fair few miles in the car that year.
I’d drive home straight after matches on a Saturday and after training on a Tuesday. This leg of the journey was easy as I looked forward to seeing them. It was the drive back down on Sundays and Wednesdays that killed me.
Putting the children to bed was tough. They were crying their eyes out every time I left. They didn’t want me to leave. They didn’t understand what was happening and Jenson thought me and his Mum had split up. He thought we weren’t living together anymore.
Graye, who was three at the time, did get very upset but it didn’t effect him as much as it did Jenson.
They were heartbroken, and it was horrendous putting them to bed so upset. They just wanted me to stay at home. I hated seeing them so emotional and down.
At the start of the season, I would set off back to London around 8pm. As the season wore on, I would set off later and later.
Those few hours after the boys went to sleep were the only time me and my girlfriend got on our own. We had no other chance to speak properly face-to-face or just sit on the sofa and watch tv together.
It got to the stage where I was leaving the house around 11.30pm. I didn’t want to drive back, but I knew I had to at some stage. It wasn’t a nice drive at that time of a night.
It wasn’t just my boys who were struggling, my girlfriend Jade was too. She is an incredible Mum to my boys and I don’t know how she coped that year.
We had no family living close by, so she was on her own with no help. She had nobody to rely on, and so her days were made up of solely looking after the boys. Add to the fact that Jenson needs extra care due to his diabetes. Jade would regularly have to get up in the middle of the night to check Jenson’s blood sugar levels. Normally we share the checks but with me not been there, it meant Jade had to do it every night.
The boys would often cry to her and ask questions about where I was. It was mentally draining for the three of them. I tried to help as much as possible but there’s only so much you can do talking on a mobile phone.
Since the children were born, I’ve been lucky in that I’ve always lived at home. That year though was tough and I can sympathise with all Mums and Dads who work away.
The opportunity came up to sign for Rotherham United in the Summer of 2014 and we decided it was the best move all round. The Millers had just being promoted to the Championship and it is located within 30 minutes of close family and friends.
I signed a 2-year contract and we put our house in Leicestershire up for sale.
I was back home! The kids were happy, Jade was happy and I was delighted. We sold the house and now live within 15 minutes of family and friends, and home life is great.
The question is, will I have to move away from home again during my football career?
If I did then I don’t think it will be as bad as last time. The boys are older now and understand how football works. Jade also has family close by to help and support her, and Jenson’s control over his Type 1 Diabetes is a lot better than it was three years ago.
I don’t want to be apart from them again but if I do play for a club that is a long way from home, then I know the situation is much better this time.
Life as a footballer is full of uncertainties.
Contracts are generally 1-2 years long and the prospect of having to move clubs is difficult to apprehend. The precarious position we find ourselves in, means players could move clubs at the drop of a hat.
Many fans just see footballers on matchdays expecting them to perform, but don’t realise what goes on in their day-to-day lives.
Looking back to early 2013, my home life was good.
I had bought a house in Leicestershire when I first signed for Coventry in 2010, and after moving away from close family and friends in Yorkshire, we were now all settled in.
My eldest son was coming to the end of reception year in primary school and his teachers had started to gain confidence in managing his type 1 diabetes on a day-to-day basis.
My youngest, Graye, was happy and content in his nursery and my girlfriend was enjoying life in the Midlands.
However, in June 2013 I found myself out of contract at Coventry City. They had a lot of off-field issues and were not able to offer me a new deal.
Worry and uncertainty ensued.
What happens now? Where will I be playing my football? Can I join a club within travelling distance of my home?
I had a bit of interest from teams in League 1 and 2 but I had aspirations to play my football in the Championship, as I had done for the majority of my career.
The opportunity to sign for Charlton Athletic arose. A team in London, 135 miles away from home! Regarding my football career, this was something I couldn’t turn down. Football is only a short career and any footballer should want to play at the highest level possible, so I signed a one-year contract with them in July.
Of course, this would mean living away from my family.
They were settled in Leicestershire and we didn’t want to up sticks and leave for London, especially with only a one-year contract.
It wouldn’t make sense to.
The plan was to live down there on my own and commute back up when I could.
Ever since my children were born I’ve been heavily involved in their upbringing. My training schedule as a footballer means I’m at home almost everyday (barring away trips where I’d stay in a hotel for a night). This meant I could do the school run most mornings and afternoons. I was always around for them and even though they were young, they grew accustomed to me always being with them.
I love spending time with my family and the thought of not being there worried me. I also knew the pressure on Jade to manage Jenson’s condition whilst also looking after a toddler on her own was massive, but knew she would cope.
I didn’t want to live in London, miles away from my family but for my career, I knew I had to.
Footballers are often stereotyped to have a perfect life.
Play football for a living and get paid well for doing so. What’s to moan and complain about? It’s a great life.
Fans don’t really get to know about a footballer’s private life and the issues they face just like every other person does. Granted, football is my dream job and I feel very privileged to be doing something I love every day.
However, we face many problematic issues and scenarios just like anybody else. We are at the end of the day, just normal human beings.
I’m just trying to give an insight into my personal experiences and being out of contract with a young family is tough.
Not knowing where your next club is going to be is daunting. You can’t just keep moving your family around with you every time you move clubs. It’s not fair on them.
I want them to be happy and settled in school and at home.
Moving clubs and away from your family is a massive decision to make and there are plenty of footballers up and down the country with similar circumstances.
Football isn’t as straight forward as just playing on a Saturday afternoon. It’s a lot more complicated.
My partner and I spoke at length about the decision to sign for Charlton. We knew it would be difficult, and would probably put a strain on our relationship.
I never imagined however, how hard and difficult living away from my family was going to be….
Saturday 3rd March 2012
A day I will never forget.
Shocked, frightened, numb, hurt, worried, gutted and shaken. I had so many different feelings and I didn’t really know what his diagnosis meant.
Could he lead a normal life?
Could he grow up playing football?
I had no idea about the condition, and never picked up on the symptoms which to this day still feel guilty about.
The burning question in my head though was why? Why my little boy? What has he done to deserve this? I was heartbroken over those first few days while he was in hospital and tried to keep a brave face in front of him but away from his bed I couldn’t keep the tears in and I’ve never cried so much in my life.
I remember the day like it was yesterday.
At the time I was playing for Coventry City Football Club and was sidelined with a knee injury.
The team were playing away at Leicester City and I met the squad before the game at a hotel where they were having a pre-match meal. I’d gone to see the physio to check my knee was okay, and then the plan was to go to the stadium to watch the game with a friend. However, as I got in the car, en-route to the ground, I received the phone call that would change everything and our lives would never be the same again.
It was my girlfriend informing me Jenson was on his way to hospital and he’d been diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes.
We had moved down to the Midlands from Yorkshire when I signed for Coventry, but they were back up north that weekend visiting family, so my friend immediately drove me straight back up north to the hospital where Jenson was admitted.
My football career, my knee injury and all other things going on in my life at that point took a back seat. I didn’t care about anything else other than looking after Jenson and caring for my family. Luckily, the football club were brilliant with me and totally understood the situation. I ended up having two weeks away from the club. The manager, Andy Thorn, was in contact with me fairly often to see how we were all doing and I can’t thank him enough for been so supportive in what was an incredibly difficult time.
Looking back, maybe it was a blessing that I was injured at the time, but saying that, if I’d have been fit then I would have done exactly the same thing anyway.
If my family need me then I’ll be there for them regardless. Family comes first and overpowers everything else in life.
Four and a half years later and I couldn’t be prouder of my son.
It’s a constant roller coaster managing his condition everyday, and we’ve had some hard times juggling his care with my football career. There have been so many obstacles that we’ve had to contend with.