Certain news really puts football in perspective. Fans are fond of quoting Bill Shankly’s famous phrase about the sport being more important than life and death, but that gets put to one side when you hear some genuinely upsetting news that actually does deal with life and death situations.
In this case it’s the news that Torquay United defender and former Exeter City club captain Chris Todd who has just been diagnosed with Leukaemia.
Chris arrived at Exeter City after being released by Swansea City, via a brief spell in Ireland. He was brought to the club by Neil McNab in 2003, one of the few decent things to come out of the much-maligned coach’s short-lived reign at St. James’ Park.
Although he couldn’t stop the Grecians’ relegation from the league, the happy-go-lucky Welshman became a mainstay of Exeter’s defence during their time in the Conference. First he formed an impressive partnership with Santos Gaia, then Gary Sawyer. Other defenders came and went but Toddy remained at the heart of the back four.
When Paul Tisdale took over as manager of the club in 2006, there was always very little doubt who he’d pick as captain. Chris was a popular player in the dressing room and a strong leader on the pitch and as one of the few players who’d stuck with City through the lean times, his appointment was appreciated by the fans.
As captain, Chris helped lead the Grecians to their first trip to Wembley at the end of the season, although the side lost to Morecambe.
At the end of that season, Chris followed Exeter’s former assistant manager Paul Buckle down the A380 to Torquay United, where he again became a mainstay of their defence as they mounted a challenge to bounce straight back into the league following their relegation.
The disease was only picked up when when a nurse recommended he have a blood test after he struggled to recover from an operation. He was told the news on Monday. Part of the complications of the disease includes an enlarged spleen, which could easily rupture on contact and Chris was lucky to get through a 5-a-side game unscathed on the morning he found out about his disease.
I’ve met and interviewed Chris on many an occasion and he’s genuinely one of the nicest guys you could wish to meet in football. He’s always cheerful and, unlike many modern footballers, is happy to chat to anybody – fans or journalists. Many an interview would finish with both of us in fits of laughter.
Typically, the defender is taking the news in his usual good-humoured manner:
“Obviously it’s a bit of bad news for me.
“I’m very pleased to be at a club where they are giving me 100% support and I’ve got my family behind me, who are amazing. It’s hard to accept but I’m a fighter, as anybody who knows me will tell you. I have had upsets in my career and this is just another step. I will deal with it and I will be back.”
Chris will learn on Monday at what stage the disease is at – at best, it could still be in its early stages and he could be back on the pitch within a few months.
What makes it, to me, even more shocking is Chris is, at 27, still a young man. He’s only a month older than me, but also has a fiancee and a young daughter to care for.
Chris Todd is one of football’s good guys. He’s also a fighter, and I hope that the fighting spirit that you always see from him on the pitch will see him through this dreadful time.
Get well soon Chris.