Chesterfield give a special young man his a dream day out and the rest of us a reminder of their humanity
The management and players of Chesterfield FC gave a special young man a day he will never forget on Saturday and gave the rest of us a timely reminder of their humanity.
Bobby-Joe Luck was born with hydrocephalus, a build up of fluid on the brain that has led to three major brain surgeries.
He was also born a Spireite.
The club invited him to be their mascot for the visit of Leyton Orient and days later the Birdholme youngster still hasn’t stopped talking about it.
In years to come, Bobby-Joe probably won’t remember much about the game, never mind the result.
He won’t recall the missed chances, passes that went astray or the defensive lapse that cost his heroes a share of the points.
What he will remember is being greeted by goalkeeping coach Carl Muggleton and walked into Martin Allen’s office.
He’ll definitely cherish the memory of the gaffer summoning his favourite player, Drew Talbot, who gave him a t-shirt.
Being dared by the manager, for a £10 reward, to run to the Kop and take his shirt off to celebrate, meeting the players in the dressing room, training with them on the pitch and walking out to the Proact roar – it was any football mad kid’s dream day out.
And for his proud family, an overwhelming afternoon of emotional highs, after seven years that have undoubtedly contained heartbreaking moments and worry.
Few of us can imagine the helplessness that would engulf any parent whose eight-month-old was undergoing brain surgery.
Dad Dean was reduced to tears by the tribute Robbie Weir paid to Bobby-Joe in his programme notes.
Weir is, himself, a father.
Many of these Spireites players are dads and they’re all someone’s son.
They are, whether they’re wearing the blue shirt in front of thousands or sitting at home watching Netflix, ordinary blokes like any of us sat in the stands.
They’re human beings.
They just happen to work in a job that has a fairly unique set of demands, privileges and rewards.
Sometimes, we’d all do well to remember that.
It seems to be an increasingly natural reflex for some to react to a poor performance with a tweet calling another human a useless four letter word, either directly to their account or indirectly.
It’s easy to write someone off as worthless in a social media world of absolutes, when snap judgements drown out reasoned debate.
Patience is not a virtue on Facebook, Twitter and message boards – nor is it particularly in stadiums on matchdays.
It’s easy to ignore the fact that we all make mistakes, have bad days at the office, react poorly to confrontation, adversity or criticism.
We can be guilty of all too conveniently putting aside a footballer’s status as a person in order to vent our frustration with a 90 minute portion of his and our week.
We don’t often get to see the events and circumstances that have filled a player or manager’s days leading up to a Saturday afternoon.
They too have family issues, stress, anxiety, addictions and yes, even financial concerns.
This is, as we say loudly every time someone is sacked or shipped out of a club, a results business.
And yes, it’s a bit rich for a football writer to preach to anyone on the subject of criticism of others.
But maybe a slight pause before hitting tweet, a bite of the lip before verbally castigating someone from the sidelines would make the atmosphere around the game a little less toxic at times.
After all, no one walks into work determined to fail.
Players don’t cross the white line with a plan to lose individual battles.
Managers don’t take jobs with the intention of making poor signings and leading a slide down the table.
Chesterfield have arguably suffered more than any other club in England in recent seasons, with managerial appointments that just didn’t work out.
That doesn’t make, for example, Gary Caldwell or Jack Lester justifiable targets for personal abuse – both were very decent men during their spells in charge and remain so to this day.
They’re only human.
Being paid to play or manage football is a job many would give their front teeth to do.
I don’t particularly buy into the ‘footballers have a responsibility to be role models’ mantra because that’s a parent’s job.
Nor do I believe we can demand that ‘footballers must give something back’ because everyone should be left to make their own choices.
It’s heartwarming however that the Chesterfield class of 2018/19 both saw and seized an opportunity to use their position for good and make a little boy’s day so special.
The generosity with their time and attention is to be applauded.
It’s the human touch.