FOOTBALL mad Stourbridge schoolboy Charlie Cowley, who has just returned to the pitch after gruelling chemotherapy treatment for leukaemia, had chance to meet his sporting heroes when he was treated to a day out at Everton Football Club.
Charlie, his brother Jacob, dad Chris and mum Nikki were invited to Everton’s USM Finch Farm training ground to meet the entire squad of Everton first-team players - including Charlie’s heroes Richarlison, Gylfi Sigurdson, Tom Davies, Yerry Mina, Theo Walcott and Seamus Coleman.
The players spent time with the family and signed their shirts before enjoying a kickabout with Charlie and his brother.
Charlie’s dad Chris said: “Both Charlie and Jacob were absolutely overjoyed at the experience. It was very surreal to see Charlie taking on Theo Walcott and Richarlison, and Jacob running around and trying to score against Tom Davies, who they see every week on TV.
“Charlie has not stopped talking about it since."
Charlie, aged seven, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in February last year after his dad noticed he had become pale and had unexplained bruises that would not go away.
When a small rash appeared around bruises on his arm and leg he was rushed to A&E.
He immediately started treatment and has been undergoing gruelling chemotherapy at Birmingham Children’s Hospital. He has since finished the intensive phase of the treatment but the chemotherapy is continuing with daily tablets and monthly hospital visits for intravenous treatment. He also still has to have a lumbar puncture every three months under general anaesthetic.
His dad said: "He amazes us every day with his determination. He has a little over two years of treatment left but he is progressing really well. We are all praying it stays that way and he can ring the all clear bell when his treatment is due to end in June 2022."
After spending time in a wheelchair due to the impact the treatment had on the nerves in his legs, Charlie has now recovered enough to return to playing in defence for his under-8s junior football team Stourbridge Town FC and his dad said: “The strength is coming back slowly to Charlie’s legs and he is delighted to be back playing for Stourbridge Town FC. He gives every game his all no matter how long he is able to play for. To see him out there playing again is wonderful and testament to the little man’s courage and determination.”
After hearing Charlie’s story, Everton contacted the youngster's family to offer him the chance to attend a stadium tour and to meet his heroes in person at the club’s training ground.
As well as meeting the team during their visit to the club - Charlie and his brother Jacob were also presented with goodie bags including a water bottle, calendar, football, a signed first-team shirt, captain’s armband and a throw.
Chris said: “Charlie and Jacob were delighted with the gifts – Charlie’s room is Everton from top to bottom and he was delighted that the throw completed his room. We’ll also be putting the shirt the players signed in a frame to remember such a brilliant day.”
The surprises even continued after they left Finch Farm. When they looked at Richarlison’s Instagram feed there was a picture of Charlie and Jacob playing alongside Richarlison for all of his 2.3 million followers to see.
Chris added: "It was wonderful to see the day also really meant something to the players.
“Not many people get an experience like the one we had, and we are so grateful to Everton for making it happen. It is called The People’s Club for a reason.”