Phil Thompson admits dementia fears in emotional interview ‘Something has to be done’

Phil Thompson discusses his fears of dementia

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Retired footballer Phil Thompson, 67, admitted to having fears over being diagnosed with dementia as he spoke about his former Liverpool teammate Terry McDermott, 69, recently receiving a diagnosis of early dementia. The revelation came days after Manchester United player Dennis Law was also diagnosed with dementia. Phil explained a lot of footballers have suffered with it and has his own fears over the illness.

Dan Walker began: “Lovely to see you, I know it’s difficult circumstances first of all how is he, how is Terry?”

“He’s great, he was at the game on Saturday,” Phil explained. “Obviously then it hadn’t been, we knew for a while that he had been for the tests.

“Obviously, he was diagnosed with the early stages of dementia, but you see Terry, you know Terry, he was still full of beans, he was in good form with all the ex-players.

“He wants to continue doing that and I think he’s every right too, still go and enjoy his life, but it is it’s one of those moments that you get in your life, we’ve seen it far too often, as you just said with Dennis.”

Phil continued: “It is a sad time, and you look back, it is a big thing and loads of my colleagues have all had it, Bob Paisley, my mentor Rodney Moran had it and it’s all awful because these people have great memories.”

Sally asked: “It’s sad isn’t it because if I think of you and Terry particularly, that incredible friendship that you’ve had for so many years you talk about now and hearing this news about him.

“I know you’ve probably known for a little bit longer than we have, it must feel very difficult for you at this point when as you say you start seeing names as they get younger and younger, how do you feel about that now?”

Phil explained: “I suppose it is a worry and we’ve gone through it, loads of people who are out there, families who have had to deal with this, with dementia being in the family.

“My wife’s family had it, my wife’s mother and it is difficult as it goes further on, so you do worry we have seen it, we think back since Terry announced it but you do think about when you were playing and how many times you were heading footballs.

“I went back 1986 when I became reserve team manager the footballs, we had for my reserve team the first team had the better balls, they had 10,” Phil explained.

“But the balls that we were using were awful, dreadful when they got wet and that was mid-80s so I’m thinking back and this is very much a generational thing and something has to be done.”

He continued: “It would be interesting to see these boys, if they do some studies of these lads who are coming out of it, who they will be. The balls are a lot lighter, but certainly back then and when you look at what we were doing.

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“It is a generational thing and you do worry, you do think long term and you know how we all get forgetful because we’re of that age.”

Sally agreed: “I suppose every time you get forgetful, is there a bit of you that worries?”

“Absolutely,” Phil exclaimed. “When it’s in families, it wasn’t on my side, but it was certainly on the wife’s, you do actually worry about it.

“At the moment I feel fine absolutely great, so you don’t know when that moment comes.”

Dan added: “Because now, reducing the amount that children will head a ball in training and it’s happening at the top level as well, but when you were playing and training, did they ever mention that you should reduce the amount you were heading a ball?”

“No, we didn’t, we didn’t do too much heading practice at Liverpool, I had a 15-month spell at Sheffield United where we did do a lot of heading,” Phil explained.

“And this is at the back end of my career, I’ve turned 30 and I remember heading practice and we’d be hitting balls from the half-way line.”

Thanking Phil for coming onto the show, Dan said: “Thank you for coming in and talking to us about Terry and if you see him do pass on our love as well.”

“Yeah, I will, he’s a great lad and still in good fun,” Phil replied.

BBC Breakfast airs weekdays at 6am-9am on BBC One.
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