It was legendary former Liverpool manager Bill Shankly who once said: “Football isn’t a case of life and death, it’s much more important than that.” However, from time to time there are things that put the beautiful game into perspective, and the story surrounding former Sunderland midfielder Steed Malbranque that emanated yesterday is one of those. The Tyne-Wear derby between Newcastle and Sunderland is one of the fiercest rivalries in British football, but one that is transcended by this piece of news.
If you haven’t heard, Steed Malbranque has been forced to retire at the age of 31 in order to care for his son, who tragically has been diagnosed with cancer. Like a lot of news these days, I found this out via Twitter and more specifically ex-Newcastle midfielder Joey Barton’s account. He Tweeted: “My thoughts go out to Steed Malbranque & his family, Steed has retired from football to care for his son, who has been diagnosed with cancer”. Also on Twitter Newcastle right back Danny Simpson said: “Thoughts are with steed malbranque n his kid, met him a few times n hes a top guy!”.
All I really want to do is echo those sentiments and say that my thoughts are with the Frenchman. Footballers get a lot of stick at times, but when it comes down to it, they are just human beings like you and me who have feelings and in this case have hurdles to overcome. Hopefully for Steed’s sake his son can battle through it, but his act shows that he well and truly has his priorities right and is ready to give up the last few years of his football career to care for his son.
While Steed Malbranque might have been a player that the Toon Army used to boo when he made more than 100 appearances for Sunderland, a couple of which were against Newcastle, hopefully the football fraternity can come together in their support for Steed. Few people would have cheered as loudly as me when we beat Sunderland at the Stadium of Light a fortnight ago, but in the grander scheme of things this pales into comparison with what Malbranque is growing through. We can only hope that junior Malbranque gets better soon.
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