Few professional football players have a story as unique as Declan Thompson.
As a youngster, he spent part of his early life in a wheelchair after being diagnosed with Perthes Disease – a rare childhood condition that affects the hips.
After numerous surgeries and wheelchair-bound for 18 months, his parents were told by doctors that he may never be able to walk again.
At this time, football seemed out of reach for Declan.
But the Wednesday academy product proved that anything is possible in life and made his first team professional debut for the Owls on Saturday in the FA Cup third round at Exeter.
Behind every academy players’ debut, there is a story and proud family and friends behind the scenes.
And just moments after the final whistle on Saturday, an emotional video emerged of Declan’s family celebrating his big moment.
Emotional scenes when our assistant manager Lee Thompsons son Declan comes on for @swfc in @EmiratesFACup to makes his debut! @BBCMOTD @adam3oxley @AlanBiggs1 @ThomasFeaheny @Ollie_Bayliss pic.twitter.com/ptzfbWPslN— Stocksbridge PSFC (@parksteelsfc) January 9, 2021
His dad, Lee Thompson – assistant manager of Stocksbridge – was moved to tears at seeing his boy run out for Wednesday.
Declan told swfc.co.uk: “It was quite emotional to watch the video of my family watching me on the TV coming on.
“Just knowing I’ve made them that proud and you could see how much it meant.
“My grandad was the same, he’s not very well right now but I could see how happy I’ve made him. It’s what makes the FA Cup and this game so special.”
Thompson was included in the matchday squad for the trip to Exeter but revealed to us that he couldn’t quite believe it when Andy Holdsworth gave him the nod.
“It was really a shock to me. My family said I had a look of shock about me when I was coming on!
“Andy Holdsworth turned around and told me to get ready because I’m going on and I looked at Isaac Rice as if to say, ‘does he mean me!?’
“I couldn’t believe it.
“As I was on the side of the pitch with the board held up with my number on it, I knew I was making my family proud.
“The lads were excellent with me the whole time – they were perfect, the whole day was surreal, like a surreal experience. I didn’t feel like I was really there, I felt I was living a dream.
“I’ve had lots of people contact me saying I’m an inspiration and when I receive these, I always message back - I always want to give something back.”
Declan is now an ambassador for Steps – a national charity working for those whose lives are affected by childhood lower limb conditions.
“I was told I wouldn’t play football when I was younger,” he continued. “Now I want to be there for other young kids and help push them on and achieve what they set out to. Never say no, it’s not the end.
“I’m an ambassador for Steps and they are a fantastic organisation, a fantastic charity who help so many kids, I’m always in contact with them and looking forward to working with them more in the future.”