FA Cup star Declan Thompson reflects on how memory of cruel kids mocking him in wheelchair helped fuel footballing dream

DECLAN THOMPSON has never forgotten how other kids cruelly laughed at him for being in a wheelchair.

That memory and sheer bloody-mindedness drove him to become a professional footballer.

And on Saturday he climbed off the bench to make a fairytale debut for his beloved Sheffield Wednesday in their FA Cup win at Exeter.

Thompson, 18, spent a year-and-a-half in a wheelchair from the age of five after being diagnosed with Perthes disease – a rare childhood condition that affects the hips.

And his parents Lee and Gemma were told he may never walk again, let alone play football.

But, after undergoing a number of surgeries, Thompson was not only able to walk, but made a full recovery by the age of 11 to allow him to pursue his football dream.

He told SunSport: “What hurt me the most back then was when I went to a Christmas fete, I saw people looking and laughing at me.

“I want to say to people who look at others and think they’re more disadvantaged than them, that’s not the case.”

In fact, Thompson was so determined not to allow his disability to make him different from other kids, he still enjoyed playground kickabouts even in his wheelchair.

And, after he had pins and plates removed from his hips, he would play while using a ZIMMER FRAME.


He said: “Seeing my friends kicking a ball made me want to join in.

"It wasn’t about becoming a footballer at that point – it was just about enjoying it.

“I’m the sort of person if I’m going to do something, I won’t let anything stop me.”

Thompson used to watch Wednesday from the Kop and remembers being taken to his first home game against Notts County as a birthday present.

He comes from a huge football family. Dad Lee, 38, was a midfielder who played in the Football League for Boston.

There, Lee was team-mates with Brighton boss Graham Potter, former Belgium assistant and Luton manager Graeme Jones, ex-Leeds chief Neil Redfearn and Sheffield United old-boy Peter Duffield.

And his granddad Craig, 63, used to coach at Leeds, Sheffield United and in local non-league.

Thompson credits his grandfather for helping him beat the odds to become a professional footballer – as he would take him to games and coach him while his dad was busy with his own playing career.

He said: “My granddad took me to every match but he hasn’t been well since having a heart attack a couple of years ago.

“But he doesn’t let it affect him. He’s more resilient than even me – that’s where I’ve got it from.

“Along with my dad, he has played a huge part in helping me to where I am today.

“I went around his house on Sunday and took the shirt I wore at Exeter with me."

Thompson is going to get his shirt framed and give it to his grandfather, so it can hang on the wall next to the one of his dad’s from his own Boston debut.

He said: “I was heartbroken that, with no fans allowed, he couldn’t come to watch my debut.

“That had always been my No1 priority when I was coming through the Wednesday academy.”

A video posted on social media of his dad in tears at home while watching his son came off the bench went viral.

And Thompson joked: “My dad has got more fame out of this than me.

"I wasn’t able to watch the video all the way through because I got too emotional.

"To see my family name on Twitter has made me so proud.”

Thompson’s story so far has been inspirational stuff but the rookie does not want to stop there.

He wants to write many more chapters – and ideally with the club he has always supported.

He said: “There is no limit to what you can or can’t do.

"If you want to become something, you can be whatever you want to be whether it’s a plumber or footballer.

“I now want to kick on and become a household name.”


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