Many young football fans dream of coming face to face with their heroes - but one tiny supporter met two Blackpool FC starslong before his parents ever dreamed he would.
Ellis Bowley arrived 12-weeks early at Blackpool Victoria Hospital on October 31, weighing just 2lb and 12oz.
And proud first-time parents Glenn Bowley and Caroline Brown, from Cleveleys, say he is now making good progress after his unexpected arrival put his little life in danger.
During a visit to the hospital, Tangerines players Peter Clarke and Nathan Delfouneso met Ellis - named after former Seasiders’ favourite Tony Ellis - after visiting young people on the hospital’s children’s ward. The pair even left him a Tangerines scarf.
The visit came after what civil servant Glenn, who is chairman of the Blackpool Supporters’ Association, described as a ‘traumatic’ start to his son’s life.
“We were at home on a Thursday night and Caroline was feeling some discomfort so we went to the hospital to get it checked out,” he said.
“We had no idea she was going into labour but four days later Ellis was born. It was obviously a shock. They had to do tests to check he was developing OK and he was on a heart monitor and a ventilator to help him breathe.
“It was quite frightening but they have not identified any major problems.
“It didn’t dawn on us at the time that his life could have been in danger.”
Glenn said the first few weeks had been a ‘rollercoaster ride’.
“There were times when he took two steps forward then one step back and there have been good days and bad days,” he added.
“It’s a traumatic experience, especially for mums.
“Although there is still a long way to go he is now doing really well, touch wood.”
Ellis came off his heart monitor on Thursday and may be able to go home with his parents as week before the original due date next month.
Glenn said he and Caroline, a council worker, couldn’t thank hospital staff enough for all they had done - and also thanked the many well-wishers who had sent messages of support.
“There have been so many different people involved including specialists and paediatricians and they have all done a top-notch job,” he added.
“They put you at ease and they have given Ellis the best possible chance.”
Glenn said that the Blackpool players had been ‘great’ during their visit.
“Ellis does not have a choice - he is going to be a Blackpool fan, even if some might say that is child cruelty,” added the Tangerines season ticket holder.
“It’s a testing time for the club at the moment both on and off the pitch so it’s good that the community side of things is so strong.”