firstname.lastname@example.org (Jeremy Cross)
It’s safe to assume most people cannot wait to see the back of 2020.
Covid-19 has turned our lives upside down and challenged us like never before. It has tested our tolerance, understanding and spirit to the absolute limit.
So have those who run English football and not least this week, when we’ve seen them squabble over power and cash with blatant arrogance and greed.
But once in a while someone rises from the wreckage of life to provide us with an inspirational reminder of what a sobering virtue perspective can be.
Right now, that person is Rob Burrow.
Burrow cannot look forward to what next year might bring, because the chances are he won’t live to see it. He has Motor Neurone Disease (MND) and it has engulfed him so quickly he is now struggling to talk, walk or feed himself. His wife, Lindsay, has gone from being his childhood sweetheart to full time carer.
He is just 38 and has three young children. His hopes of now seeing them grow up, get married and have families of their own are slim at best. For now, spending one last Christmas with them might be as good as it gets, because MND does not give a damn.
To someone who knows little about MND, words feel like inadequate tools with which to describe the shattering nature of the debilitating disease, one that strips sufferers of their dignity and is ultimately fatal.
Burrow is a sporting icon. A man who defied his size to become one of the most successful rugby league players of all time. He dedicated his entire career to the Leeds Rhinos, winning eight Grand Finals and two Challenge Cups, not to mention 20 caps for England and Great Britain.
His achievements put him in the pantheon of his profession – and those privileged to call him a friend speak of a hard but humble and genuine man, who did it all with a smile on his face.
Burrow is still smiling now, because he is tackling MND with the same remarkable courage and class he once showed on the field, educating people about it and inspiring countless others to perform remarkable feats to raise funds in the ongoing bid to find a cure.
Like his former captain and team-mate Kevin Sinfield, who last weekend ran his second solo marathon on Saddleworth Moor to swell coffers that can never be big enough.
Rugby League is full of hard men like Sinfield, who was as tough as teak. So tough, in fact, he once went to the dentist to have root canal surgery and didn’t bother with any anesthetic. “I wanted to be able to eat my tea when I got home”, he recalls.
But even Sinfield was reduced to tears when discussing the plight of his big mate Burrow in an excellent BBC documentary aired earlier this week, entitled ‘Rob Burrow: My Year with MND’.
Burrow insists he has “too many reasons to live” to let the disease beat him and will “not give in until his last breath”. But deep down, Sinfield knows his pal now finds himself in one battle he cannot win. Heartbreaking doesn’t do this scenario justice.
So if you think life is tough right now, take a moment to think of Burrow and what him and his family are going through, trapped in a nightmare from which there is no escape.
There might be no end in sight to the desperate scrap with this damned pandemic, but a very different end is in sight for Burrow, even though he refuses to accept it. If we all had hearts as big as his, the world would be a much better place.
To donate to a fund set up to help Rob Burrow and his family, visit www.virginmoneygiving.com/fund/robburrow
Holloway has spoken more sense than anyone else
Ian Holloway is never short of an opinion and likes the sound of his own voice.
But of all the people to have waded into the debate now raging about “Project Big Picture”, no-one has spoken more sense than the Grimsby Town boss.
“Greed is disgusting, and that’s what I’m seeing everywhere,” raged Holloway when asked about the fact Liverpool and Manchester United are driving plans to reshape football that would see the top flight reduced to 18 teams and the ‘big six’ control the Premier League.
“They want to get richer and richer and squash the competition. It’s absolutely vile and I hate it, so the Government needs to step in. Go and tell the top clubs that you can’t do that, please. Somebody needs to.
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“The game doesn’t belong to you. The club might, but for how long? The game belongs to people in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. It belongs to us. Every community deserves it, and you’re just at the top of it, so who do you think you are?”
Holloway is right in one sense, because the game does belong to the fans, not some billionaire parasites from Boston and Florida.
But if he thinks this current Government is capable of running a billion pound industry like the Premier League – the most watched sports league in the world – he’s sadly mistaken.
Football might be facing its biggest crisis and is in desperate need of intelligent help and leadership, but Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his band of brothers in Parliament can’t even handle their own crisis right now, let alone someone else’s.
This is the same Government that this week allowed hundreds of people to pack into the London Palladium for an event with Arsene Wenger, but won’t allow supporters to watch matches outside in stadiums. Go figure that one out?