JACK EMMETT thought he had achieved his dream when Harrogate clinched promotion at Wembley.
He was finally going to become an EFL player after doing the hard yards in non-league.
But, during pre-season as the Yorkshire club prepared for their first season in League Two, the midfielder realised something was wrong.
After training sessions and games, Emmett was feeling exhausted beyond anything he had previously experienced.
And following visits to his doctor and a series of medical tests, he has now been forced to announce his retirement from professional football at the age of 27 – having been diagnosed with chronic fatigue.
Emmett told me: “I’d been struggling after games for a couple of years – but it wasn’t something I thought too much about as I believed it was part and parcel of being a footballer.
I’d been struggling after games for a couple of years – but it wasn’t something I thought too much about as I believed it was part and parcel of being a footballer
“It got particularly bad a year ago – especially when I was playing a lot of games: Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday.
“I was exhausted all the time so had some tests done but nothing came back. I thought I was over training or there was something wrong with my recovery.
“But then this summer, during an intense pre-season, it got worse.
“I went back to the doctor and he put me through loads of tests.
“After a few months of that, yet again nothing came back, which was good because it ruled out all sorts of nasty things.
“The doctor has now concluded everything and diagnosed me with chronic fatigue.”
The syndrome is a long-term illness with a wide range of symptoms.
But the most common is extreme tiredness while it can also affect concentration – something which Emmett experienced.
The condition tends to develop among people between their mid-20s and mid-40s.
Apart from 90 minutes against Leicester City Under-23s in the Papa John’s Trophy in October, Emmett has not played this season.
And he said: “The manager knew I was going through tests and was supportive. I told him I couldn’t play until we got something back that was concrete.
“But with this diagnosis, it was best to take a step away.
“I reached a point when I’d get through training and tended not to feel too bad but then would get home, crash, feel exhausted and struggle to get out of bed.
“It was hard to concentrate on anything. I had brain fog.
“I was just dragging myself through training and hoping it would get better.
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“But once it got bad it didn’t matter how many rest days I had. It makes you feel like you’re ill and must sleep it off.
“This happened always after an intense fixture list or tough pre-season.
“It got progressively worse and to the point where I was so exhausted I couldn’t play well.”
So Emmett has decided to take time out of the game to avoid any lasting damage – and, if he does return to football, it will be playing part-time in non-league.
I do want to return to football but it’ll have to be part-time as we don’t know if it’ll come back if I push the body again
He said: “My recovery plan is to not do anything for a while and just rest my body. I’m focussed on that. It can be a long process.
“The consensus is that people my age generally make a full recovery.
“I do want to return to football but it’ll have to be part-time as we don’t know if it’ll come back if I push the body again.
“You have to be careful because overdoing it can lead to other problems.
“But I want to return in some capacity because football has been a big part of my life.”
Emmett – who hopes to get a job using his degree in accountancy – has been playing for his home-town club for seven years and enjoyed the rise from National League North to League Two.
And he said: “Of course, I’m gutted not to fulfil my dream of playing in the League.
“But many people haven’t been able to do what I’ve been able to do in football – help take my local club into the EFL. I’m both proud and grateful to have done that.”
MICK HOLDS THE TRUMP CARD
GREAT appointment by Cardiff bringing in Mick McCarthy.
Big Mick is perfect for the Bluebirds and, Neil Warnock aside, no-one knows the Championship better.
I always love the way he calls a spade a spade and I reckon he can get Cardiff digging deep for a play-off tilt.
Sterling effort, Cheltenham
RAHEEM STERLING told the Cheltenham players and staff that he thought they were “done for” after Manchester City survived a real scare a Whaddon Road.
The Robins were within nine minutes of pulling off one of the greatest FA Cup giantkillings of all time as they led 1-0 through Alfie May’s goal.
Goals from Phil Foden, Gabriel Jesus and Ferran Torres flattered City in the end.
And the Premier League stars could not have been more complimentary about the team 72 places below them.
My old friend Russell Milton is the club’s assistant manager and he told me: “Raheem came up to us and said, ‘You guys were brilliant – I thought we were done for. I couldn’t see us getting a goal.’
“Although the City players had to get changed in the club bar, they still showered in the away dressing room so walked past ours.
“Phil Foden told our boys, ‘Well done lads – you were fantastic.’ And you could tell they were all genuine with it – they knew they had just been in a game.
“Pep said he was aware of our threats and knew we were a good team.
“And the City analysts told ours they sincerely couldn’t see themselves getting back into the game because we were snubbing out everything.
“And they were really panicking too. They started moaning about everything on the touchline. Their subs were constantly complaining after we scored – but we weren’t doing anything different to when we first started the game.
“When Cambridge equalised with the last kick of the game against us a couple of month ago and all ran over to the bench to celebrate. The way City celebrated was just like that. We couldn’t believe it, Wow, that’s Man City.”
Milton also revealed the goal involving long-throw specialist Ben Towser setting up May was copied from Stoke.
He said: “We watched videos of Rory Delap and studied the way they got goals – and Ben and Alfie executed it to perfection.”
Oldham next tomorrow for the Robins in League Two.
And Milton added: “We certainly don’t need to do any more defensive coaching lessons with them for a while!”