Andy Grant has a arresting adventure to acquaint – and Gareth Southgate asked him to acquaint it to his players and agents at St George’s Park afresh
The claiming for Gareth Southgate and his England players as they adapt for their World Cup attack is a simple one.
Make yourself heroes.
Success in Russia, in whatever appearance that was to arrive, would be life-changing. Footballing glory, afterwards all, is what this country longs for. How abounding ‘years of hurt’ are we up to now?
The burden will be huge, no doubt. Expectation branch into the clash may not be as aerial as in antecedent years, but watch how bound that changes. Boom or apprehension is what the civic aggregation deals in, with little in between.
If there’s one affair football can never accept too abundant of, though, it is perspective. Perhaps that can advice explain the role Andy Grant has played in England’s World Cup preparations. Footballers as heroes? Real heroes? Accept a word.
Andy is a 30-year-old Liverpudlian with a arresting adventure to tell; one of alarm and misfortune, adventuresomeness and determination, black and light. One he was arrive to tell, beforehand this month, to Southgate and his band at St George’s Park.
“It was surreal, to be honest,” he tells Goal. “The England aggregation accept developed a accord with the Royal Marines – they came to do some training aftermost year – and on this break [Southgate] anticipation it’d be a acceptable abstraction to get a few of us in to allocution to the band and absorb the day with them. Who’s activity to say no to that?!”
Andy was aloof 20 aback he awoke in a Birmingham hospital bed, afterward 10 canicule in a coma. He had absolute up during a accepted bottom convoying in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, adversity the best alarming of injuries. He had a burst sternum, a burst leg, a burst bend and armament lodged in both forearms. He had a burst femoral artery, assumption accident to his easily and anxiety and deep, broad wounds in both of his cheeks. How he had survived is anyone’s guess.
After 18 months alive his way aback appear bloom – growing aback six centimetres of burst cartilage in his leg in the action – Andy took the biggest, best absurd accommodation of his life. He would, adjoin his dad’s wishes and doctor’s orders, accept his appropriate leg amputated beneath the knee.
“It was acutely a big decision,” he says with accidental understatement. “But for me it came bottomward to the way I capital to alive my life.
“I’d consistently prided myself on actuality fit and active, actuality in the Marines, running, swimming, aggressive mountains, you name it. The acumen I aing the Marines was because they said 99.9 per cent of bodies charge not apply; I capital to be allotment of the 0.1 per cent.
“So to go from that to actuality blessed aloof to be able to airing again, it wasn’t me. I capital to alive the activity I’d had with two legs, so I chose to go with the amputation.”
That was in November 2010, and in the seven-and-a-half years since, Andy’s activity has appear abounding circle. There were the antecedent bouts of depression, and a spell area he admits he drank and gambled too abundant – “I acquainted I had no worth,” he says, “nothing to get up for” – again a aeon of introspection. “Taking buying of your own life,” he calls it. He absolutely did that.
In 2013 he became the world’s fastest single-leg amputee, ambience a new 10km almanac of 37 account and 17 seconds. The afterward year he won two gold medals and a brownish at the Invictus Games for afflicted servicemen and women, captivated in London.
Now, he is a motivational apostle and has aloof appear a new book. It’s appellation ‘You’ll Never Walk’ is a advertence to both his adulation of Liverpool Football Club, and the boom on his leg which was cut abbreviate by the 2010 surgery.
His aboriginal accessible speaking gigs, he tells Goal, came address of his above school, St Wilfrid’s.
“They acclimated to ask me to go in and accord a quick allocution about actuality in the Marines,” Andy says. “It’d be asleep informal, jeans and T-shirt, 20 account and abroad you go.
“Then afterwards what happened to me, they asked me to accord addition but to abrasion my medals and my uniform. This time it was in Bootle Town Hall in advanced of 700 people! I anticipation I’d bigger get practising for this one!
“The capital affair for me is that I never appetite to complete like Uncle Albert off Alone Fools and Horses, consistently giving it the ‘during the war’. My adventure is one of tears and laughs, and I accept that I adore demography bodies on that journey. It gives me a buzz, an adrenaline blitz if you like, and I never anticipation I’d get that affectionate of thing.”
Football was, and remains, a huge allotment of Andy’s life. He remembers Jamie Carragher, one of his idols and a adolescent Bootle lad, actuality amid the aboriginal to appointment him afterwards his acknowledgment from hospital. Carragher charcoal a acceptable friend, while the brand of Jordan Henderson, Robbie Fowler and Steven Gerrard accept all lent their support.
At St George’s Park, Andy and two added above Marines were asked by Southgate to accord a 20-minute allocution to his band and backroom staff.
“We’d all absent a leg in altered circumstances,” he says. “Two of us had been absolute up and one was in an RTA, but the affair was that we’d all taken buying of our lives and gone on to accomplish X, Y and Z.
“We gave our accent and again we went out on the acreage and did a few warm-ups with the players, jogging and stuff. Again we had addition 15-minute affair in abate groups, area the players could ask us annihilation they capital about our lives or our situations, a bit added informal. At one point, I took my leg off and anesthetized it annular so they could accept a look. It was appealing relaxed.
“Then came a d of football. I don’t anticipate the players were necessarily assured me to be able to play, but aback I did a bubble flick I saw the looks on their faces! There was a point area me, Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford were arena two-touch, befitting the brawl in the air for a brace of minutes. Like I say, a bit surreal but a abundant experience.”
The acumen of young, millionaire footballers is not consistently a absolute one, but Andy speaks awful of the way in which Southgate and his band advised him during his day with them.
“I was abundantly surprised,” he says. “The barriers were burst bottomward appealing quickly, and they were adequate allurement me about what had happened. It’s not consistently accessible for bodies to ask, but I’d rather they did.
“What came beyond to me best was that these were aloof adolescent lads, affable lads who were absorbed in award out a bit added about us. I enjoyed it.”
He describes the action of autograph his book, forth with bounded announcer Phil Reade, as “cathartic”.
“I didn’t realise how abundant I bare to allocution about these things until I started,” he said. “Once I got activity it aloof came calamity out – Phil and I would be sat arrant our eyes out in pubs beyond Liverpool! But I owe him so much, he’s helped me massively and I can’t acknowledge him enough.”
The affliction and the accident will consistently be a huge allotment of Andy’s story, of course, but there is abundant added to it besides. His three-year-old babe Alba, for example, is a animated light.
“I was told aback I came annular in hospital that I would never be able to accept children,” Andy says. “I never told anyone that for a continued time, maybe because of pride or something.
“But I was advantageous enough, through IVF with my above partner, to acquisition a agent donor and abundantly it worked. Now Alba is growing up alive alone a accustomed life.
“The kids in the artery ask why I alone accept one leg and she tells them ‘he got absolute up by the baddies!’ We go pond and she holds my leg while I get in the pool. She knows no different, and I adulation that.
“She inspires me to alive my activity and to try and appearance her there’s no absolute to what you can achieve. I abhorrence bodies who accept excuses and accusation added people. I achievement that she sees how I alive my activity and it can accord her a agnate affectionate of mentality.”
As for the future, that charcoal article of a bare canvas appropriate now. Andy ran his aboriginal chase beforehand this year, and this anniversary is walking from Liverpool to Leeds. Both are to accession money for a friend’s son, Mark, who was built-in with a bearing birthmark and, like Andy, had his leg amputated.
“I was advantageous in that I got the best affliction and the best prosthetics,” Andy says. “Not anybody is absolutely so fortunate, so I’m hoping, with the baby belvedere I accept been able to get, we can accession acquaintance and a little bit of money to advice the family. At present, we’ve got aloof over £5,000 in donations, which is incredible.”
He’s not wrong. Andy’s adventure serves as an afflatus to all – he has been inundated with letters aback the book was appear – and hopes his bluntness and artlessness will animate others to allotment and to strive to be the best they can be, behindhand of circumstance.
“I appetite the book to be as acknowledged as possible,” he says. “Then afterwards that, it’s aback to the cartoon lath I guess! I don’t appetite to angle still, I appetite to accumulate blame myself and affective forward.
“The bulletin in the book is this; you don’t accept to go to Afghanistan and get absolute up to realise activity can be sh*t. It throws all kinds at you, every distinct day.
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“But you can affected it all. If cogent my adventure can affect bodies to accept they can affected obstacles, and that they can accomplish things no amount what, again I’ve done my job.”
He’s a arresting man, is Andy Grant. And if Gareth Southgate and his players can appearance bisected of his adventuresomeness and appearance over the aing few weeks, again England could be in for a actual acceptable summer.
Andy’s book, ‘You’ll Never Walk’ is accessible now from deCoubertin, priced £15.99.
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