“It was about having my life back…” - Declan Thompson’s tale of a wheelchair, a night at the Christmas lights and the family that shaped him into Sheffield Wednesday’s latest viral sensation
When Declan Thompson made his Sheffield Wednesday debut on Saturday, he didn’t expect media from across the country to be putting in calls to speak to him...
After Thompson’s dad, Lee, had posted an emotional video showing his reaction to the 18-year-old’s Owls debut, his name started going around the globe. The moment was special, but it became even more so when people started to learn his story – how he went from being a wheelchair-bound youngster with Perthes disease to the FA Cup.
Fast-forward a few days and the teenager has been flooded with messages of support and of thanks, so much so that the club accepted requests from national news outlets who were looking to find out more.
But while it’s all smiles now after he made his first venture into professional football, Thompson can’t forget the long road that he’s been on.
As a youngster, who was unable to play with his friends, who couldn’t do the ‘normal’ things that any kid his age wanted to do, he admits that it was tough.
“The thing that hurt me the most when I was younger was when I went to a Christmas lights display,” he said. “I saw people looking and laughing at me – that really got to me. I still remember that… It wasn’t about becoming a professional footballer at that point. It was just about having my life back.
“I’ve always been that person that, if I say I’ll do something, I’ll do it. I’ve always been determined, and with my grandad supporting me, and my whole family, I always wanted to become something for them.”
And his grandad in particular, he explained, has played a huge part in getting to where he is today. So much so that shortly after his debut, his match shirt was already taking pride of place in his house.
He told the media, “I gave him my shirt… He’s never really shown emotions with me, but I could tell that I’d made him proud, and that was one of the best parts for me.”
There was a tinge of regret in these unfortunate times, however, given the fact that the lifelong Owl – who remembers sitting on the Kop on his first trip to Hillsborough has a boy – couldn’t have his family (grandad included) with him at St James Park.
“My dad took me to Stocksbridge, my mum and grandad took me to training and games, it’s a big thing for all my family…
“I’ve always said I wanted my grandad to be there for my first game… That’s been my number one priority since I got back into Wednesday. If I was ever to play, I wanted him to be there - he’s been the biggest part of my career, and not seeing him there I was a bit heartbroken.”
His endeavour, courage and strength of mind have gotten him to this stage, but and while none of it would’ve been possible without those around him, his desire to prove people wrong was just as important.
“Being told ‘No’ is not the end of the world... Push on, become a better person, a better athlete, and be whatever you want to be.”