Radio Kent broadcaster and producer Andy Garland's column
PUBLISHED: 10:32 31 March 2014 | UPDATED: 10:32 31 March 2014
Why Andy is feeling humble after reading a former Kent football manager's story of life after a serious stroke
“I have drowned in fear these last 14 months”, the emotive words of former Deal Town football manager Tommy Sampson are taken from his new book Sudden Exit. It chronicles the aftermath of a serious stroke he suffered at the tail end of 2007.
I have known Tom for many years, as he would often drop into the BBC Radio Kent studios. I also had the privilege of commentating on a couple of Deal games early in the club’s 1999-2000 season that eventually saw him lift the FA Vase at the old Wembley stadium.
As a manager he was passionate about his team and his sport, but was always ready to provide a grin and a word after the game, courtesy of a big and bubbly personality, even if things hadn’t gone so well for his team.
And that charisma was still much in evidence when he appeared on my colleague Julia George’s mid-morning show recently to talk about his experience.
“Sudden Exit is the story of my psychological recovery from the stroke,” says Tommy. “Day-to-day, I’m still paralysed down one side, but what I have dealt with is the loss and the depression.
“I remember the moment distinctly, I had some soup on in the kitchen, then I stumbled, head-butted the fridge freezer and fell to the floor. The iron, which had been balanced on top, fell just in front of my eyes.
“Later, during the bad times, I thought, I wish it had fallen on my head and put me out of my misery!”
Remarkably, Tommy dragged himself up to bed to sleep it off and it was left to his partner Sandy returning from work later to realise what had happened and summon an ambulance.
The book is written from both her and Tom’s perspective and at times is a brutal and harrowing read, as he fights to recover and she fights to deal with a changed man both physically and mentally.
“I didn’t want to live; I felt I was a burden. Sandy was working to keep me, as well as looking after me, I was like a baby I couldn’t move and my self-esteem had disappeared,” says Tommy.
“Before the stroke I’d walk into any football ground in Kent and talk to about 40 people before even a few minutes had passed. Now I was stuck in a chair, tearful; it took me years but I had to re-learn to control my emotions.”
Those powerful feelings are amply illustrated in the second half of the book, which takes the form of many handwritten notes by Tom during the course of his slow recuperation.
Prayers, despair, hope and flashes of the old football motivator are all angrily slashed in biro onto the paper.
While there is no happy ever after, there is a feeling of acceptance of his lot and not surprisingly the beautiful game has played a part in achieving that.
Tommy describes the moment he began to claw his way back into the light after months of the bleakest thoughts.
“I can pinpoint the day, it was when my football friend Harry Richardson passed away, I went to his funeral and back to Dulwich football ground for his wake and everyone I knew in football was there.
“Surrounded by those people, I enjoyed the day. I went from self-pity to having some self-esteem,” he recalls.
Life is a precious commodity, if you want proof, read this book. n
Sudden Exit by Tommy Sampson is published by AuthorHouse, www.authorhouse.co.uk. It costs £12.95 (soft cover) or £23.99 (hard cover).