"I burst into tears.." Sheffield Wednesday legend on the diagnosis of his great friend and Manchester United icon Denis Law
A legendary Sheffield Wednesday goalscorer says more should be done to protect young footballers against dementia until more research is carried out into the disease.
Jim McCalliog, who played 150 league matches for the Owls between 1965 and 1969 and featured in the great FA Cup final defeat to Everton in 1966, spoke candidly to The Star about the dementia diagnosis of his great friend Denis Law.
Law is one of the latest in a long line of footballers to have played in the 50s, 60s and 70s to be diagnosed with a brain injury in later life, former Wednesday manager Jack Charlton among them.
“He’s a wonderful human being and he’s tackled it head on,” McCalliog said. “Only good can come out of what he’s said.
“Other players sadly are going to be affected in different ways as they get older, so hopefully it will help speed up the recoveries. We need as much medical help as we possibly can get our hands on. It’s a scary thing, dementia.”
On suggestions heading should be reduced in the training of younger players until more research has returned on the effect of lighter footballs, the seven-cap former Scotland internaitonal, now 74, said: “I think for young players growing up they should cut out heading, I really do.
“When I think back to when I was young starting off in football, it would be raining, the balls would be heavy. It wasn’t as much in matches, you wouldn’t head the ball all that much on match days unless you were a centre-half or maybe a centre-forward, but it was the practice.
“That didn’t do us any favours. It was just the way it was back then. We played in all sorts of conditions, the match we played against Chelsea in the 1966 FA Cup semi-final, they wouldn’t play on that nowadays.”
McCalliog will appear at Hillsborough on Saturday as part of his book tour. Law contributed the foreward to the book titled ‘Wembley Wins, Wembley Woes’.
“It was unbelievable,” he said. “When I rang Denis to ask him if he’d do the foreward for my book, he said straight away, no hesitation, ‘Yeah kiddo, no problem whatsoever’.
“Well I burst out into tears. He’s a big hero of mine, the number one hero.”