I was plagued by nightmares as my son battled leukaemia, reveals Gary Lineker


FOOTIE legend Gary Lineker has opened his heart about his son George’s battle with leukaemia when he was just eight weeks old.

He recalled how docs told him and his then wife Michelle that the tot was so ill he wouldn’t make it through the night.


I was plagued by nightmares as my son George battled leukaemia, reveals Gary LinekerCredit: Getty

The ordeal traumatised the Match of the Day presenter so much he was plagued with nightmares of carrying a tiny white coffin.

But brave George beat the illness after a gruelling course of chemotherapy during a seven-month hospital stay and is now a healthy 30-year-old.

Gary, 61, relived the ordeal in an interview with Kelly Cates and Geoff Thomas for The Athletic’s The Moment podcast.

He said: “I wanted it to be me that had it. I didn’t want it to be my little kid.

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“I used to have this recurring dream of carrying a tiny little white coffin.

“It’s horrible. It woke me up so many times.”

George was just a few weeks old when his parents took him to see a doctor after spotting a mark on his head in November 1991.

Former Spurs and England ace Gary said: “It was like a little spot or bump on his forehead.

“They thought they would take a little biopsy just in case. Then they said, we’ll have another check in just under two weeks’ time.

“In the interim, he had more of these spots appear all over his head so he looked like a golf ball.

“We went back for the check and they said it was this skin condition.

“But in the days before that he started to get very unwell. He was groaning and had these little swellings over his body.

“They took a look and I’ll never, ever forget it. They took his nappy off, and they just looked at each other and went, ‘Oh, I’m really sorry to tell you, this is something far more serious’.

“They said they needed to do more tests but that it looked like leukaemia.

”It was such a difficult time because we were being told that it would be incredibly difficult for him to make it through the night.


“It was pretty grim. I’ll never forget that first night. We were taken to Great Ormond Street and they did all these tests.

“At the end of the night they gave us some sort of evaluation of prospects and they said it’s not good. They came to us with a somewhere between 10% to 20% survival rate.

“The doctors were very straight about his overall chances. Even on the nights where they said he might not make it through, they were preparing us for the very worst. But I always appreciated their honesty.”

Gary, who also has three other sons, was at Tottenham Hotspur at the time and told how football allowed him a brief respite from the daily worry.

He said: “Football was the only time I could almost get it out of my mind.

“I had three weeks without training and then I said: ‘Right, Terry [Venables] can I come in?’ because I needed it for me.

“There’s a little bit of an escape from a whole day in the hospital ward.

“It definitely did change me as a person. I was so driven in what I did, as you have to be in football, and I was almost a bit cold in many ways.

“I think it gave me more empathy than I probably had before.

“It gave me appreciation and perspective of people who don’t get things as I’ve had in my life. I think in that sense it did change me, which I think is probably a good thing.”

Gary relived the ordeal in an interview with Kelly Cates and Geoff Thomas for The Athletic’s The Moment podcast


Gary relived the ordeal in an interview with Kelly Cates and Geoff Thomas for The Athletic’s The Moment podcastCredit: Getty – Contributor

Gary opened his heart in the first of a series of interviews with footballers who have faced life-changing moments of adversity.

Presenter Geoff Thomas, 57, faced his own personal battle when the former Crystal Palace ace was diagnosed with leukaemia in 2003 after he retired from playing.

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He was given three months to live but beat the disease and has spent the last twenty years raising money for research.

Future guests on the series will include Middlesbrough defender Sol Bamba, 37, discussing his return to playing after beating non-Hodgkin Lymphoma.


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