17 May 2017
How the beautiful game can help you achieve your goals - on and off the pitch.
Gordon Metcalfe’s life has been shaped by football.
A keen player and a madkeen Evertonian as a kid growing up in Liverpool, he decided to join the King’s Regiment because it had a great reputation for sport. He played football at battalion level as a forward and winger, while also working as a Physical Training Instructor at Catterick.
Tragically, it was a football injury that led to his amputation. “It was just a nasty tackle – I broke three bones in my ankle and it put me out for six months,” he recalls. “It just never healed. I kept getting niggles and pain, but I went on ops to Afghanistan when I should have been having an operation. When I got back, I was just in agony. I had lots of operations, but eventually, in April 2015, the doctors decided that nothing was working, and they took my leg off below the knee.”
Such a setback – even something as serious as an amputation – wasn’t going to dampen Gordon’s love of the beautiful game, however. Despite it being his right leg – the one he kicked with – that was amputated, he was soon back in training, and is now proudly wearing the blue shirt of Everton’s official amputee team.
"It felt good to be kicking a ball again. I'm getting better by the game, and it's helping my mental health, too"
From rehab to right back.
“My rehab was fine – I was already pretty fit and strong, so I healed up quite quickly. I was walking seven weeks after my op and running after three months. The doctor would come around and I’d be doing press-ups by my bed to keep motivated.
“I found out about amputee football at the Limb Centre in Preston, and I was really pleased to be able to get involved with Everton. It felt good to be kicking a ball again. But I suffer from PTSD, too, and last season I went through some dark times.
“The PTSD goes back to my time in Iraq in 2003, and I was also on Herrick 11, which was one of the worst tours for soldiers getting hit. It can be very hard to even leave the house with PTSD, and last season my leg was doing my head in as well – which was always going to happen at some point after the amputation. So I missed quite a few training sessions and matches.
“I was frustrated for a while too, because I’d been quite a good footballer. But now I’m determined to improve. I’m getting better by the game, and it’s helping my mental health, too. I’d love to get a Blesma North vs South game going!”
How did you get injured, and how has football helped you?
I served with the King’s Regiment, like Gordon, and I was injured in a car crash nine years ago. I had my leg off in November 2015. Playing football has been fantastic. I used to be a goalkeeper before I was injured, but I’m not going to lose an arm to be able to play in goal for this lot! I have lost my kicking foot, but I’m adapting well – it’s mind over matter. So you’re a Blesma Member.
Do you do many activities?
I only joined last year and I’ve got really involved. I’m just back from skiing in La Plagne, which was my first activity, and it was amazing. It took a bit of pushing by my BSO to get me to go, and I wasn’t sure about how I’d get on, but us soon as I got there, the other lads made me feel so welcome and valued!
Any plans to do more stuff?
I’m doing the Race2Recovery in Australia later in the year. Seven weeks rallying in the Outback – it’s going to be amazing
How did you come to play for the team?
I was born with one arm so I’ve never known any different, and I’ve always enjoyed playing football. I played pandisability football for a while [teams made up of people with different disabilities] but Everton’s amputee manager asked me to try out, and I’ve been here for 10 years.
How tricky is playing in goal with one arm?
It’s OK. I worry a bit about diving and getting injured, but you adapt. We’ve adapted all our lives, so you just get on with your own style of playing. You’re not allowed to touch the ball with your stump, so I have to tuck that arm in. Arm amputees can actually play outfield, but we’re limited to a couple of touches of the ball. Internationally, though, we have to play in goal.
What’s the team spirit like at Everton?
It’s really good. I still find what some of the players can do with one leg unbelievable! I’m a Liverpool fan playing for Everton, so the less said about that, the better. Let’s just say I get some stick!
"I always saw being in the Army as representing my country, and I’d love to do it again as a footballer"
“I’m volunteering at Everton as a mentor on an Army veterans programme."
I want to get more people out of the house and engaging with civilian life, and help them with housing, money issues, getting them steady again... I’d also like to get my football coaching badges. This has given me a lot, so it would be great to be able to give something back.”
In the meantime, it’s a series of drills, mini matches, and penalty practices. “I’d love to share this with Blesma Members,” says Gordon, “and I’d love to hold some training sessions at recovery centres and places like Headley.
Anyone interested should get in touch! Ultimately, I’d love to have a Blesma team – that’d be brilliant.”
For more information on amputee football contact Gordon on firstname.lastname@example.org or on 07549 175315. To get in touch with Members who play for other teams, contact Bryony Stevens at Chadwell Heath on email@example.com