Sky Sports News presenter Hayley McQueen has opened up on her heartbreak after last month revealing her father Gordon, the former Scotland, Manchester United and Leeds defender, had been diagnosed with vascular dementia.
The 68-year-old’s family released a heartfelt, public statement in February in a bid to raise awareness of the disease and its links with football amid growing calls for action to be taken.
After Sportsmail’s campaign calling on football to finally tackle its dementia scandal, a Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee launched an inquiry earlier this month and the first session is due to take place on Tuesday.
Sky Sports News presenter Hayley McQueen has opened up on her heartbreak following her father’s, dementia diagnosis
Gordon McQueen’s family revealed in a statement last month he was diagnosed with vascular dementia in January
Hayley, pictured with her father, revealed her heartbreak following his dementia diagnosis
McQueen enjoyed successful playing days with Manchester United, Leeds and Scotland and has most recently worked as a TV pundit
McQueen started his playing career at St Mirren, played 30 times for Scotland and won a First Division at Elland Road and an FA Cup while at Old Trafford.
Now his daughter Hayley has opened up on her father’s struggles with the disease and still can’t believe how playing football has so heavily impacted his health.
Speaking to BBC Breakfast on Tuesday, she said: ‘Everyone’s dad is their hero. I didn’t realise he was other people’s hero as well.
‘I don’t think I really understood what he did until I was eight or nine. There have been moments where I’ve thought: “I can’t believe the thing that gave him so much love has now so cruelly taken a lot away from us”.
‘He started to ask: “When am I going to get this sorted? When is someone going to fix my head?” We were kind of hoping it wouldn’t be dementia but I think we all knew it probably was.
‘He said a few years back: “If I ever have dementia or Alzheimer’s then I don’t want to know”, but he actually did want to know what was wrong with him and wanted to try and understand and maybe work with others to make sure the next generation of footballers aren’t in this situation.
Hayley, who now works as a sports presenter, poses with her ex-footballer dad in a family snap
She spoke to BBC Breakfast on the day a DCMS inquiry will begin to investigate links between sport and brain injury
‘Sport and football, you enter into it thinking it’s going to mentally and physically better me, it’s going to prolong my life. You don’t think at 60 years old you’re going to have brain damage from something that you love.’
McQueen, known for his aerial ability during his career, was diagnosed in January and became the latest former footballer to be hit by the disease.
Nobby Stiles suffered from Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia before his death at 78 and his fellow World Cup winners Sir Bobby Charlton and the late Jack Charlton have also lived with dementia, along with a number of former professional footballers.
Speaking about her father’s experience, Hayley said: ‘I don’t think I realised just how much my dad used his head. It was over and over, every day in training for years and years.
‘He said he wouldn’t take back any of his goals or headers that he remembers so fondly but maybe he would have done things differently in training, had they had been warned.
‘But you can’t get angry about that, there’s no one to blame, they weren’t to know. We know now and someone will be to blame if we don’t do something about it.’
McQueen said she can’t believe football, the thing that gave her father (right) ‘so much love has cruelly taken a lot away from us’
Sportsmail’s dementia campaign was launched last November and has received backing from former footballers, as well as MPs
On Tuesday, the DCMS inquiry will speak to leading figures from the world of sport about the links to brain disease in what represents a major intervention.
That includes Willie Stewart, the neuropathologist who has led major research into the link between football and brain disease which found former players were 3.5 times more likely to die of neurodegenerative diseases than the general public.
Professor Craig Ritchie, a neurodegenerative disease specialist, will also be present and asked about the links, how they may be mitigated and the current dangers for younger people involved in sport.
A second session, set to be held later this month, will hear from governing bodies including the Football Association and Professional Footballers’ Association.
When asked what she would like to come from the Government’s intervention, Hayley replied: ‘I think there needs to be changes in the law, within football’s governing bodies as to how much a player heads the ball.
‘Not just at Under-11 level, it needs to be right through the professional game.
‘Sunday league footballers need to know about it, everyone needs to know about it.’