"We were joined at the hip": Sheffield Wednesday loanee Josh Windass opens up on friendship with Jordan Sinnott
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The tragedy sparked a wave of condolence across the football world and the donation of 826 shirts sporting Sinnott’s name – sent from clubs including Liverpool, PSG and Ajax as well as amateur clubs and indeed Wednesday – were auctioned off for charity.
And while pictures posed for by the likes of Steven Gerrard and Harry Maguire served as a stunning mark of respect for the Matlock Town player, there was another photograph that provides a more touching, personal tribute.
It was taken as only 16 minutes into his Wednesday debut, Josh Windass scored against Barnsley, turned away and directed his fingers to the sky.
“Thanks, Jordan,” Windass said to himself. Sinnott had died only a fortnight earlier.
It was Windass’ first outing since the tragic events of January 25, which came as he was preparing for Wigan Athletic’s 2-1 midweek win over Wednesday.
“I was told the morning after he died, on the Sunday morning,” the Wigan-owned attacking midfielder said speaking exclusively to The Star.
“I was getting treatment at my house and my mum came in crying. She was so upset and that was it, she told me while I was getting treatment. It was just so sad. It didn’t sink in for a long, long time. It felt so weird.
“I rang my friends straight away who were friends with Jordan too, they came round to my house. It’s just a tragedy, isn’t it?”
The pair grew up together in Guiseley, a leafy but largely working-class West Yorkshire town not far from where the Wednesday man lives now. Josh’s dad, former Owls loanee Dean Windass, was close friends with Jordan’s father and the tearaway pair were fused together from childhood.
Fate would have it that, moving into their teenage years, they ended up at the Huddersfield Town academy together. Windass was released at 18 after struggling with injury while Sinnott would go on to play twice for the first team before moving into non-league football.
“Jordan basically grew up with my family,” Windass said. “My dad was best friends with his dad and my mum was best friends with his mum.
“We used to holiday together, we spend such a lot of time in our childhoods together.
“We’d go and play football for hours and hours, we'd jump over the fence at Guiseley AFC and play on the pitch there, we'd go down to the pitches at the local school and play on there.
“I remember we'd always get kicked off at some point but we didn’t care, we were just having fun.”
Josh and Jordan grew up in the same friendship group as York City defender Luke Hendrie and from time to time knocked about with former Sheffield United loanee and current Hearts wing-back Aidy White. Several other childhood friends have grown up to enjoy careers in non-league football.
It’s a shared upbringing Windass looks back on with huge fondness and credits for the career he’s had.
“We were just always playing football,” he said. “You see the kids now just playing PlayStation or what have you. We were out there until it got dark every single night just smashing balls about.
“It changed when I was 17 or 18 when I got released from Huddersfield and went up to Accrington and then up to Rangers, I didn't see as much of him as I'd have liked. But we always kept in contact and we were best friends, joined at the hip from between about eight until 17.”
Sinnott’s name was back in the headlines last week when it emerged that the donation of his organs had saved the lives of ‘at least’ seven people, including one person aged only 20.
Soldiers and other burns victims are also benefiting from skin grafts created after his donation, which was carried out as part of his wishes after conversations he had had with his family.
His brother Tom said: “Words can't even describe it. It just means the world to me to know Jord, even after he passed, is still bringing joy to people even if he didn't know them. It really does mean the world.
“He loved giving and even after he’s passed he managed to do that. At least his heart is still beating.”
A family statement paying tribute to Jordan read: “Jordan was the love of our life. He was kind, gentle, funny and lived his life to the full each and every day.
“He was a true gentleman. He absolutely loved his football and from an early age we knew he was determined and driven to succeed.
“Nothing will ever be the same again without Jordan in our lives. It will leave a void that can never be filled.”
And looking back Windass said: “What happened was a disaster. It was disgusting. He was an amazing guy and it's just so sad what happened to him.”
Two men are awaiting trial for his manslaughter.