A tight-knit group of friends who have played football together for the best part of a decade are to host a charity match for one of their team.
Gym United, who play in the Bury and District Sunday League, will hold the match at Summer Road in Walsham-le-Willows on Sunday, July 21, to raise money for the Icanho Brain Injury Rehabilitation Centre, which has helped Jonathan Tebbit overcome the effects of a stroke.
Tebbit played in goal as Gym went the season unbeaten in 2011/12 and his teammates are rallying round to make sure football can play a big part in his recovery.
“Everyone has been really good,” said Tebbit, who was just 28 when he became ill in July 2012. “All my friends rallied round and I still go and watch them on Sundays — they’ve kept me involved with the club.”
Led by 26-year-old player-manager Matt Morton — who also turns out for Walsham-le-Willows in the Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division on Saturdays — Gym promote a strong social side to the club and, along with Tebbit, a number of the current squad joined almost 10 years ago when the team was known as Abbotts.
Morton, who was 17 at the time and used the club to get his first taste of senior football, said: “One of the reasons everyone has rallied around is we are a group of players who have all grown up together.”
Morton added: “When something like this happens to one of your own, it’s a very sensitive subject and the lads want to do everything they can to help Jonathan through what has been a difficult time.”
Last July, just a few weeks after Gym’s unbeaten season, Tebbit suffered a stroke when a blood vessel burst and caused the left side of his body to become paralysed.
He was in hospital — at West Suffolk and Addenbrooke’s in Cambridge — for the next two months before being discharged and started working with the Icanho Centre in November.
His rehabilitation there has helped Tebbit walk, get back to work and take steps towards tasks like driving, although playing football again is still some way off.
Before his stroke, Tebbit worked for Hughes on deliveries and installations and, on his return, his company found a different role for him in their depot in Thetford and have donated a television towards the raffle draw that will take place on the day of the game.
It will cost £1 to watch the match on July 21 (3pm), while the bar at Summer Road will also be open and refreshments and a bouncy castle will help to make the occasion welcoming to families.