Inspiring footballer honoured

FOOTBALLER Martin Heald has been honoured as a sporting inspiration to the entire county.

The Wesham amputee international won the Special Recognition Award at a glittering Lancashire Sports Awards ceremony in Blackpool on Friday night.

The 18-year-old, who plays for the Manchester United and Great Britain amputee teams, was Fylde borough's nominee in the category, having won the council's equivalent award earlier this year.

The Kirkham Carr Hill sixth former was first struck by cancer at the age of four and was then diagnosed with an unrelated bone tumour at 15, which resulted in him having his left leg amputated at the hip.

An official sports ambassador for Fylde, Martin was the youngest player in the Great Britain squad which won bronze at the European Championships, scoring his first international gold in the process.

Martin, who is playing in defence this season, had been looking forward to playing on an even bigger stage after being named in the GB squad for the World Cup in Brazil only for the event to be cancelled due to funding issues.

All the Great Britain players had been required to raise 1,500 to fund the trip ... and Martin managed to collect 6,000.

But this latest honour helps make up for Martin's World Cup disappointment and at least the money raised has been put to good use.

He told The Gazette: "We've bought some new kit for the Great Britain squad with the money.

"It's disappointing not to be going to Brazil but I'm concentrating on the rest of the season with Manchester United. We've only played two games so far, so there's plenty to look forward to.

"I was a bit surprised to win on Friday but really pleased and the glass trophy is very nice."

It was presented by Marie Dixon, North West regional manager of the English Federation of Disability Sports, and Sue Smith, the Everton and England women's football manager, at Blackpool Pleasure Beach.

The judging panel was chaired by Blackpool FC great Jimmy Armfield.

The 14 Lancashire local authorities – including Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre – were invited to nominate candidates in an assortment of sporting categories.

Martin was the only winner from our three local boroughs, though Fylde RFC were highly commended in the community club of the year category.