BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
HEARTS striker Cole Stockton insists he will always be driven on my the memory of his late father, Stephen, after revealing how his dad’s passing coincided with his own battle against a life-threatening bout of septicaemia.
Now a burly, imposing presence at the age of 23, the Jambos’ summer signing was just 13 when he lost all feeling in his left leg following a trial with Tranmere Rovers.
The potential damage to his burgeoning football career was put into perspective when he was rushed to hospital and swiftly diagnosed with a serious blood disease, adding “I was critical”.
Without that treatment, the young Cole Stockton could have been dead within 48 hours, doctors later explained.
“I was on trial at Tranmere at the time and remember playing a game and coming off with a sore back,” he said. “I used to play for two teams then so I went and played for my Sunday League team that same afternoon!
“When I woke up the next morning I couldn’t move my left leg. I went to the doctors and they did MRI scans and that’s when they saw the infection in my groin area.
“I was moved to Alder Hey hospital and the nurses there were brilliant with me, I still donate to them every month. I can’t thank them enough.
“It is a serious illness, like a blood infection. As a kid you don’t realise how serious it is but being around my mum, and seeing her face, told me.
“If I hadn’t gone and had it checked out I’d have probably snuffed it. They said if I hadn’t gone to the hospital within 48 hours I’d have passed out on the couch I was on.”
While Cole pulled through, he was forced to contend with tragedy as liver disease took the life of his father during the same period.
He acknowledges that it would have been easy to allow his early career go off the rails.
Instead, Stockton vowed to draw strength from adversity.
A swathe of poignant tattoos on Stockton’s arm, including one reading “my shining star and inspiration”, serve as motivation and inspiration for the Liverpudlian every day.
“That was a hard time in my life, I was in hospital [with septicaemia] at the same time,” he continued candidly. “I remember the night my dad passed – that night I had a dream that I was playing football with him.
“To me, that’s like he came to me first to say ‘I’m here for you’. He has always inspired me. Everywhere I go, I know he’s there with me. Everything I do in my career is for him.
“It definitely shaped me, it made me mentally stronger. It all gets you prepared for anything because once you come through that you can come through anything.
“I’ve been through a lot but I am not one to make it a sob story. I know there are people out there who go through hard times as well and there are good times out there too.”
There can be little doubt that the courageous Stockton has earned his crack at the big time, arriving in the Scottish top-flight following a career spent entirely with boyhood club
Tranmere, notwithstanding loan spells with Vauxhall Motors, Southport and Morcambe.
And the lifelong Evertonian, who idolises Wayne Rooney, has lofty goals in mind.
“We can achieve Europa League qualification, definitely,” added Stockton, who met with Carlisle boss Keith Curle prior to committing to Hearts. “With the players we’ve got here, and maybe if we bring in more, we’ll have a good squad.
“I’m just made up to be here. The standard is different because you are playing with players who have played at the best level in the Premiership, Championship – and so I’m learning every day by playing alongside them and against them.
“I was at the point in my career when I needed to go elsewhere and learn from the best coaches, the best players. and as soon as I heard Hearts were in my eyes lit up and I couldn’t wait to get up here and try to sort things out. Luckily we did that.”