England’s former Cerebral Palsy football captain inducted into Hall of Fame

England’s former Cerebral Palsy football captain was honoured last night alongside Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville at the National Football Museum’s Hall of Fame.

Gary Davies, who was born with cerebral palsy, represented England 85 times between 2001 and 2007, becoming their captain in 2005 and has now been inducted into the English Hall of Fame.

“I think you look at the Hall of Fame and think ‘it can’t get any better can it?'” said Gary.

“I think everything I did in football, especially in my England days – people say ‘you’re living the dream’ – it was like living the dream, and now I still am because I’m involved in trying to mould young players into professional footballers.”

He currently continues his full-time job at the Home Office, which he did throughout his footballing career, while spending his spare time coaching at Scunthorpe United’s youth academy, a role he is incredibly passionate about.

He said: “I’m enjoying working at Scunthorpe United, I coach their under 13s working with (former Hull City defender) Andy Dawson.

“I’d love to work full-time for Scunthorpe, it’s where I live and being part of and giving back to the community is important, but those jobs don’t come along very often!

“One of the things I’ve always wondered is, where is the career path for elite CP performers? Is there somewhere you can go? Is there somewhere into managing maybe other CP teams for example – if it was professional you would have that scope.”

In his involvement with the England side, Gary witnessed the game’s progression during and after his playing days.

He said: “It was a gradual progression of becoming more professional, getting more sport science people involved and also getting more support at home.

“Now that we’ve got St George’s Park, with the sport science support they’ve got there its fantastic.

“I’d hope to see a professional CP football team one day, just like women’s football has developed. I’d like to see disability football go down the same route as well.”

He spoke of the recent London Paralympic Games in 2012, which enjoyed an increased amount of coverage for disability sports.

He said: “For me it was the little things, like the show The Last Leg, which was brilliant and puts disability out there in a humorous way, which I think broke down some taboos.

“So it wasn’t only the Paralympics but actually the other media and the understanding that actually there are disabled people in other walks of life that are just as good as able-bodied people at what they do. 

“So it isn’t just about sport but also about the wider picture of inclusion and acceptance in society,” he said.

He also spoke of the role of sport in bringing about this acceptance.

He said: “I think sport is a bridge, it’s very universal in bridging gaps between people, whether it be language barriers or social divide or whatever.

“I’ve played football, for example, with people with more money than me, people who had less money than me, but I always had a healthy respect of what they brought to the pitch.

“As a kid growing up all I wanted to be was a professional footballer, and then you get to a certain age and realise your disability is going to prevent you from doing that, so I just wanted to play football with my mates.

“And that integration with able bodied people made me a better player than if I had have just played disability football.

“So although you want to have a pro CP game, you do need to have integration, because in society you need it, so it’s about striking the right balance.”

Now an inductee of the Hall of Fame, Gary provided a pair of his boots to the museum to remind him of one of his fondest memories in football.

He said: “I’ve handed in a pair of boots which I scored with at the 2006 European Championships.

“It was the only game my parent’s ever saw me play before my mother died. I scored a last-minute free kick to win the game against Spain, with the scores at 2 – 2. It was proper fairy-tale, Roy of the Rovers stuff!”

He says his proudest achievement remains captaining his country: “The first ever time as captain was special, because not only did I get the joy of putting on the shirt but the armband went on as well.

“And when you look at the people who have worn the armband for their country there’s a lot of very special people who’ve pulled one on, and I can say that I am one of them.”

Image courtesy of Graham C99, with thanks.

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