Today we were hit by some shocking news. Wanderers right back Stephen Darby has been forced to retire from football with Motor Neurone Disease. MND is a terrible condition which worsens over time, and Stephen has a very very tough road ahead of him.
However, the Liverpool academy graduate will not be facing this condition alone. Tributes and messages of support for the 29 year old have poured out from Liverpool, Bradford City and Bolton Wanderers fans as well as the wider footballing community.
While we never got to see the best of Darby on the pitch, it is clear that he is a very well respected figure at the club, and will continue to be. Phil Parkinson, who also managed Darby at Bradford, has spoken about keeping him involved at the training ground which I’m sure will be great for all concerned.
Respect for Darby spans far beyond the Bolton Wanderers community though, and it has been made clear that he is a genuinely very impressive young man. His character, honesty and kindness has been widely recognised and I think it’s safe to say that he’s exactly the sort of person we should be proud, as Wanderers fans, to be associated with.
Stephen has understandably asked for privacy at this most difficult time for himself and his family, as they adjust to their new reality and I’m sure we will respect that. However, at the same time Stephen you’ve got our full support. While our association with you as a player has been short, you’ll always be a Wanderer, always be welcomed at our club, and you’ll be in our prayers.
All the very best Stephen, your wife Steph, and the rest of the family. We’re all behind you.