Type 1 Diabetes and sport

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.


Jenson’s blood sugar levels running a bit high!

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.


A year living in London

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.



Family before football

Saturday 3rd March 2012

A day I will never forget.

This was the day my eldest son, Jenson was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes.

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.