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Soccer

Ex-England captain suffering neuro problem

Former England football captain Dave Watson has been diagnosed with a neurodegenerative disease, his wife has confirmed.

In a statement, Penny Watson said the condition of Watson, who was capped 65 times between 1974 and 1982, was "most likely" brought on by head injuries and repeated heading of the ball during his playing days.

Watson shone as Sunderland won the FA Cup in 1973 and helped Manchester City to League Cup glory three years later in a career that saw him play for a variety of clubs including Southampton and Werder Bremen in Germany.

The former centre-half will be inducted into Sunderland's Hall of Fame next month.

In a statement released to the PA news agency, Penny Watson said: "Now seems like the right time to inform you that for several years my husband Dave Watson, former England football international player and captain, has been battling a neurodegenerative disease.

"His consultant has concluded that the condition Dave is now living with is in all probability Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) - most likely caused by Dave's many head injuries, including severe concussions, and repeated heading of the ball.

"Dave has good days and bad days. He endeavours to continue to live and enjoy a normal life, as best as possible, however almost every day we are confronted with a new challenge.

"If you come across him at a match or elsewhere, please don't be afraid to interact with him. Understand that he may not be able to converse in the way he once did, but he still loves to talk about football and share a laugh.

"Please be considerate if he is having a bad day and struggling. This disease plays tricks on his memory, so he may not be able to remember accurately, and he may find signing autographs a challenge.

"The last thing Dave wants is to be treated with pity. He has always been a fighter, as those of you who watched him play know but this is one battle Dave cannot win.

"Even though things have not ended up as we both planned, Dave does not regret pursuing his passion, doing what he loved - playing football.

"We shall not be doing interviews at this time and hope you respect that decision."

In October, a study commissioned by the Football Association and the Professional Footballers' Association found that former footballers are approximately three-and-a-half times more likely to die from neurodegenerative disease than the general population.

--End of article--

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