In the past 10 days, the only item I have posted at Salut! Sunderland concerned the sudden and alarming illness of my younger brother, Phil. That article – This One’s For Phil – attracted the sort of response, here and at the Facebook group and Twitter link, that reinforced my belief in human compassion.
On Twitter, I specifically thanked all SAFC supporters for their messages of concern and their hopes that Phil would make a good recovery. In fact, there is also a Boro-supporting branch of the family (our sister has lived there for almost all her entire adult life) and, for that matter, the occasional Mag.
But allegiances don’t matter a jot in circumstances like these. So I am delighted to report, whoever you support or even if you support no football club at all, that Phil produced the resilience to come through the worst and now shows every sign of making a good recovery. I should add that the brilliant staff at St Thomas’ had a lot to do with it, too.
Phil, whose condition had caused the gravest concern eight days ago, had a difficult week but regained consciousness on Friday night. By yesterday, my nephew Peter Chapman was able to put out the hugely encouraging news that he had visited Phil, “had a nice a chat” and watched the nurses sit him up in a chair. I am working out when it might be possible to fly back from France to see him myself, though London weather makes a fair case for him to come here instead once strong enough.
I am sure Phil has much more recovering to do before he can be considered back to normal. A return to rugby refereeing is probably a long way off. For now, relief and joy are rubbing shoulders with gratitude for the goodwill of friends, family and strangers alike.