Sky Sports presenter Hayley McQueen has opened up on her reaction to her father Gordon’s dementia diagnosis, which comes amid calls for football to take greater action in preventing head injuries and in turn brain diseases.
The former Scotland international, 68, was diagnosed with dementia in February, three months after England great Bobby Charlton’s dementia diagnosis. Fellow 1966 World Cup winner Nobby Stiles suffered from Alzheimer’s before his death in October last year, while England team-mate Jack Charlton lived with dementia before passing away last July.
McQueen’s daughter Hayley, 41, is one of Sky Sports leading presenters, and told BBC Breakfast on Tuesday: “Everyone’s dad is their hero. I didn’t realise he was other people’s hero as well.
“I don’t think I really understood what he did until I was eight or nine. There have been moments where I’ve thought: ‘I can’t believe the thing that gave him so much love has now so cruelly taken a lot away from us.’
“He started to ask: ‘When am I going to get this sorted? When is someone going to fix my head?’ We were kind of hoping it wouldn’t be dementia, but I think we all knew it probably was.
“He said a few years back: ‘If I ever have dementia or Alzheimer’s then I don’t want to know,’ but he actually did want to know what was wrong with him and wanted to try and understand and maybe work with others to make sure the next generation of footballers aren’t in this situation.”
Tuesday sees the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s inaugural hearing on concussion in sport, as attempts are made to reduce the number of head injuries as well as the brain diseases that could stem from them.
“Sport and football, you enter into it thinking: ‘It’s going to mentally and physically better me, it’s going to prolong my life,’” Hayley said. “You don’t think at 60 years old you’re going to have brain damage from something that you love.
“I don’t think I realised just how much my dad used his head. It was over and over, every day in training for years and years.
“He said he wouldn’t take back any of his goals or headers that he remembers so fondly, but maybe he would have done things differently in training, had they had been warned.
“But you can’t get angry about that – there’s no one to blame, they weren’t to know. We know now and someone will be to blame if we don’t do something about it.”