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NLP says… Barking chairman had player’s health at heart

By Alex Narey

In last week’s issue, we ran a story on page 2 on Barking striker Billy Jones, who in October was told he would never play football again after collapsing shortly after a game early in the season.

Jones’ collapse was diagnosed as a first-degree heart block, but miraculously the striker has returned to full fitness and is playing again, scoring in the Blues’ recent 2-1 win against Maldon & Tiptree.

Forgive the terrible pun here, but this was heart-warming stuff. Also heart-warming was the support Billy received from the club, his manager and playing staff, as well as the Barking chairman, Rob O’Brien.

The piece, written with nothing but good intentions to deliver a feel-good story about a young lad who had overcome great adversity to play the game he loves, didn’t correctly reflect the efforts O’Brien had gone to in order to protect the player’s well-being, and it is only right that we address that.

I spoke to O’Brien in the week following the publication of the article, and while delighted Jones’ recovery had been recognised with some healthy publicity, he was keen to get his message across as to why he wouldn’t let him play again until the correct medical procedures had been addressed – notably seeing a doctor’s letter confirming his clearance to play.

“We live in this mad world where common sense is not good enough these days,” said O’Brien. “I am not in the business of stopping any fit and healthy footballer playing the game. But we want to ensure our players at Barking are cared for to the best of our ability.

“I asked for a copy of the doctor’s letter of medical clearance allowing Billy to play. The letter was written on November 1, and if I had been given a copy of this letter shortly after this date then Billy would have been in contention for earlier games. However, the letter was not presented to me. I’m pleased Billy is now fully up to speed and is playing well. His health is as important to me as it is to him.”

O’Brien hits the nail on the head here. There are consistent measures that need to be put in place to protect the well-being of the club and the player, and the right protocol was followed. I’m not here to proffer an apology for missing this in the original piece, but rather to highlight the attitude of a chairman who was looking out for one of his players. So well done!

Another nice touch came from Bournemouth in their recent Hampshire Senior Cup clash with Farnborough on December 13. On a night when Eddie Howe’s Premier League stars were facing up to Manchester United, the Cherries turned out an excellent Under-21 side who would eventually win on penalties.

There was a reported crowd of around 200, and the rules of the competition state a 50/50 split and the travelling team’s expenses paid from the home side’s (Farnborough’s) gate receipts.

A small amount of money it may have been, but it was a lovely gesture from Bournemouth to waive their right to pick up the cash. So hats off to the Cherries!

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