Footballers are often subject to levels of fanaticism and worship that can turn any young player’s head.
But Sheffield United’s Chris Morgan says the real ‘heroes’ are out there in the community - and it would do up-and-coming soccer stars good to meet them.
Morgan, a patron of Weston Park Hospital, is referring to the seriously-ill youngsters whom players visit from time to time.
The Blades’ U21s coach, who is taking part in the hospital’s fund-raising ‘Run in the Park’ on Sunday July 12, believes it would be “good experience” for younger players to visit a place like the WPH Teenage Cancer unit.
He said: “We talk a lot to our young players about attitude and bravery - we talk about bravery in terms of being brave on a football pitch. To accept the ball in difficult situations. If we took them up to the hospital and showed actual bravery I think the young players would have their eyes opened.”
Morgan said many young people were either sheltered or ignorant of the challenges, tragedies and successes of patients battling cancer.
“If we could show them that, it is truly an eye-opening position to be in” he says.
Morgan became involved in raising money for WPH years ago when he became a father, himself. “When you see the children and see how brave they are, that started me thinking. I was kindly invited to represent WPH as a patron, I thought about it for all of two seconds! Hopefully things like the Run will raise the awareness...let’s try and fight this illness and get as much as funds as we can to get up against it.”
The former defender said that key research at the WPH was funded by fundraising rather than from any NHS budget. “You have got to have research to get the better drugs and more understanding about the illness. Research triggers the new medicines and the results.”
Morgan is clearly a driven-man when it comes to the WPH charity, one of three beneficiaries of his testimonial game against Newcastle United, on Sunday 26 July.
“I sometimes think I should do more. I certainly need to get up to the hospital more and go and see the patients and have a wander around” he says.
“When you (as a club) get the invite you think how can a football team going up to a hospital, how does it raise people’s feelings and make them happier? But you can physically see them change.”
Morgan said he and Nick Cox, the Blades Academy manager, welcomed the opportunity to represent the club at the Run in the Park.
He hopes to bring others from the Lane.