Friday, 11 May 2012

For the love of Leeds

I’m Martin Hywood,38 years old, married to Michelle, father of three great girls, from Aylesbury in,Bucks and… a Leeds Utd Fan!

Saturday 31st March, Game day…

This is not your regular supporter’s story; this is about me, a supporter who is disabled, in a transitional period from able-bodied to wheelchair. I was diagnosed with Limb Girdle Muscular Dystrophy aged 23 years old. I was always slow when I was a kid, rubbish at football and could not get my head round why! Then after I dislocated my knee at work and knowing my older brother having back problems,  a biopsy was done and it was discovered – this God-awful muscle wasting condition that will eventually lead to major paralysis and the obvious after that.

Travelling with my wife, after dropping the girls off with the grandparents, we get up and set off at 09.00, and 167 miles to go…. Here’s our first problem, sitting for a long period is quite literally a pain in the bum! It’s a relentless discomfort because you simply cannot adjust or move as much as you’d wish and the shooting pains through your back, neck and shoulders are simply indescribable! But this is irrelevant it’s not about me, it’s about ER, it’s about Leeds Utd!  It’s about the players and manager that I want to see win, inevitably our conversation turns to this, our expectations of the day and the opinions on our recently appointed manager Neil Warnock. With that distraction the miles fly by and the pain cannot be felt.

Arrive at ER about 12:30, words cannot describe that simply amazing feeling you get as you come down to ER and see that Crest on the East stand (tear to the eye moment!). Time for the Superstore and the Peacock… Can’t help feeling apprehensive, as personally I’m not keen on Watford.  Travelling back from Cardiff in the same direction on a train as the Watford fans and being a Leeds fan is not an experience I’d like to go through again (Play off final 2006). Time’s getting on, too much time and money spent in the store! We need a drink. It has to be said, I walk funny and as I enter the Peacock the doorman looks at me in such a funny way because I need to use the wall he’s leaning on to get into the Pub, that’s fine it happens all the time, the perception is that this lad looks fine, walks a bit funny but why need the wall? Well I simply cannot climb the slightest curb or step without a banister, do not have a label on my head explaining my condition therefore I do not expect people to know why I do strange things, but I have to, to do what I want in this life. The feeling in my legs is absolute agony, the burning sensation beyond all belief. I seriously want to cry (This 38yr old man wants to cry!) but as I turn right from the main door and enter…  A wave of “We are Leeds” hit me like a wall; I honestly thought my hair moved! But that’s US! Leeds Utd! It’s what we do best! Immediately I join in and once again the pain goes away. It doesn’t matter now, why would it? I’m singing OUR songs with more than a hundred other people who all want the same thing as me. Electric!

Time to get to our seats, as we leave the pub the burning sensation immediately returns to my legs and a massive feeling of emptiness and paralysis comes over me, I’m powerless, it’s gone from me… I practically collapse onto the wall outside the pub , I don’t want the wife to see me like this , it’s the worst feeling in the world, imagine seeing your loved one in pain , well I’m sure I don’t want my wife to see ME, luckily she doesn’t. She needs some mints and just glances over her shoulder and says “just popping to the shop”. Relief…  It gives me enough time to gain positive thoughts and get them bloody legs working again! She’s back and we’re off to our seats arm in arm looking like a romantic couple, when in actual fact it’s all about stability! The tickets are fantastic, arranged by Marie Brennan (Ticket office) and Tracey Lazenby the disabled liaison coordinator at ER along with North stand lower tunnel pass, no steps here! happy days!!!

Now I would probably consider this the worst part of my story… Unlike me, Leeds Utd simply did not turn up! It was a brace from Watford’ s Iwelumo (the first within 5mins) that made Leeds look completely average when we know so well that we are not, Becchio was constantly facing the wrong way and Snodgrass just had one of ‘those days’ – Gutted!
It is now traditionally ‘the long journey home’ these obviously feel much better with three points under your belt but it wasn’t to be today. Why would you do this? Why strain your body? Why travel all that way? Why risk emotions of loved ones that could see you struggle?

Simply because I cannot be beat, I have to fight my hardest to do the things I love with the people I love. Every life is worth every effort to live it to its fullest and I’ll do that with my friends, family and my Beloved Leeds United… Always & Forever… Marching on Together!

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