Professional footballers have a great life. Every day they play the sport the nation adores. They entertain thousands of football fans on matchdays with their talents. It’s an incredible job to have, but with all the highs involved in football there will inevitably be lows.
We all don’t lead perfect lives.
Many football supporters will come to watch their team play at the weekend to see their star player unaware of what is going on in their day-to-day life.
This is where professionalism comes into play and the players have to concentrate fully on the football and blank out any off-field issues or distractions.
We all have personal battles and here we go with one of mine. Back in March 2012, my eldest son, Jenson, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of three. It is an autoimmune condition which is incurable. This was the hardest thing I’ve had to deal with in my career and something I’ve never really made public until now.
It massively affected me and for a number of weeks family came first.
Football took a back seat.
I was playing for Coventry City at the time and I must say they were brilliant with me and were totally understanding of my situation.
The same goes for my next club, Charlton Athletic. The manager was Chris Powell, and he was one of the best managers I’ve worked under. I was living in London away from my family and he reiterated that family is the most important thing in life.
All the pressure was on my partner to look after my son, managing his diabetes day and night, while also looking after my other young boy all by herself. However, if I needed to be back home, I knew that I could go at the drop of a hat. This helped to get the best out of me in football terms.
I spent only a year down in London before the opportunity to sign for Rotherham came about. It was difficult living away from my partner and children so we decided to take the opportunity to move back north close to other family.
My son is now eight years old and we are managing his condition well. He is coping brilliantly and is settled in school and the area. We will always be managing his condition, and he will start to manage it himself as he gets older, but I am at a stage now where I want to try and raise awareness of type 1 diabetes.
I have just become an ambassador for JDRF, a diabetes charity, something that I’m immensely proud of and will continue to promote. That’s why I’m sharing some personal issues, but if it benefits the charity, and in turn my son, then we all benefit.
I look back on this chapter in my career as motivation. My family and I got through this tough period and I now feel like anything that life throws at me, whether that be in football or anything else, I can deal with. It has definitely made me a stronger person and character.