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Football: Inspirational Culliford determined to win battle for his little girl
ANDY Culliford does not ask for sympathy – but he does deserve support.
When the former non-league footballer discusses his battle with motor neurone disease, it is impossible not to be humbled by his words.
Boosted by his loved ones, particularly two-year-old daughter Isla, Culliford’s positive approach has proved an inspiration to those around him. Listening to his story, it is easy to understand why.
One anecdote stands out. It also epitomises the determination of the firefighter.
In a bid to prove a point, to himself and medics, he embarked on an extraordinary cycle ride to a hospital appointment in Oxford.
“They all looked at me a bit oddly and I just said I was sorry I was late. I left at 2am and got there just past 10.30am for my appointment.
“They write you off quite quickly. I thought ‘you know what, I’m different and I’m going to prove to you I’m different’.
“Whether they are right and I become the stereotypical MND patient, I don’t know. But I just felt I had to prove it to myself and to them that I was still ready to fight – I’m still fit so, go on, tell me I’m ill.”
Culliford has been labelled a “hero” by work colleague and old midfield partner Taffy Richardson, who is one of the main organisers of tonight’s benefit match at Wimborne Town’s Cuthbury home (7.30pm).
Led by special guest Harry Redknapp, some of the area’s top footballing figures will attend the game between a Culliford team and an AFC Bournemouth XI, with funds going towards the Hamworthy man’s treatment.
Culliford has been fighting motor neurone disease since he was diagnosed in August 2011 after first noticing a difference in his right hand while shaking hands with football opponents and then while playing tennis.
He admitted he felt “shell-shocked” when given the news.
“Within a few weeks, my life had been turned upside down and I didn’t know what to do and had to pick myself back up from that,” said Culliford.
“There are days where I don’t want to get out of bed. My little girl comes in and bounces on me and I have got to be as normal as I can be for her and I have got to beat this thing for her.
“Selfishly, I want to see her grow up and that is what I have got to do. I will do anything I have to do to be able to do that.
“In the past couple of months, I have felt like I have been a bit up against it. I need something to work for me.
“My mindset is that I have ups and downs but, luckily, I am quite a dogged, determined, positive person. I think that might be the thing that helps me through it.
“I don’t know whether I will get through it and I will probably die trying, but I will try.”
Culliford added: “Never take your health for granted. There are people who get worse things than me so I am not saying I am the unluckiest person alive.
“I am just saying that while you have got your health and don’t have those issues in your head, get out there and do what you need to do with your life.”