League Cup winning hero Jackie Marsh, who has been to hell and back over the past two months, says he can’t wait to see his beloved Stoke City back in action… and surviving relegation.
Marsh has been through depression, pneumonia, cancer and coronavirus – thinking his life would end at one point – but he insists he’s in a much better place and has thanked his many well wishers.
And now he wants to see Stoke complete the job of ensuring they avoid the drop when they re-start their season at Reading on Saturday with a further nine games to play.
“I’ve missed the football, it’s been a long time, and will definitely be watching,” says Marsh, who was 72 at the end of May.
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“We are not safe yet, but I’m confident. Manager Michael O’Neill is a guy who will put them straight sooner rather than later.”
Stoke’s players could certainly make use of the fortitude the one-time full back has summoned during the most traumatic spell of his life.
He had already been diagnosed with bladder cancer and undergone surgery when he was then taken to hospital with coronavirus.
“The hospital sent me home to self isolate and I also had pneumonia at the time,” he recalls, “so I thought `this could be the end.’
“I looked grey and had to stay in my bedroom for 10 days. I was coughing, spluttering and a bit breathless, had no appetite and it affected my sense of taste.
“But the hospital was brilliant, I can’t thank the NHS enough.”
His recovery left him able to concentrate on his cancer and he is currently undergoing a six-week course of chemotherapy.
“I’m having good days and bad days,” he continued, “but you have to stay upbeat and not be feeling sorry for yourself.
“You just have to keep trying to overcome the next hurdle because you never know what’s round the corner.”
He says he has been helped hugely by all the well wishers which have included many former team-mates.
“I really appreciate everybody who’s sent a message through The Sentinel and Radio Stoke, it really has helped, particularly those who are red and white through and through like myself.
“The PFA has also been helpful. Jeff Whitley, who played briefly for Stoke and has been through so much himself, has even been around to see me.
“And of course I have to thank my family and friends. My daughter Charlotte is living with me and looking after me so well, along with my grand-daughter Aneasha and my young grand-son Luther, while my sons Jonathan and Richard have also been there for me.”