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Big John: Sgeulachd John Hartson

BBC ALBA – Thursday 18 December at 9.00pm

Big John: Sgeulachd John Hartson

BBC ALBA - Diardaoin 18 Dùbhlachd aig 9.00f

John Hartson

BBC ALBA PROFILE FOOTBALLER JOHN HARTSON FIVE YEARS AFTER HIS BATTLE WITH CANCER

Former Celtic striker John Hartson tells how his love of the Highlands helped him overcome testicular cancer in a new BBC ALBA documentary, ‘Big John’.

Five years after life saving surgery, Hartson recounts how he set himself a target of climbing Ben Nevis as part of his recovery during a visit to his parents in-law in Fort William. The Ben Nevis climb is now an annual event with friends and supporters raising funds for a charity founded by John, but his wife Sarah reveals her husband initially wasn’t fully aware of the scale of the challenge he had committed himself to.

“The Highlands hold a special place in my heart in terms of my recovery and just me as a person,” Hartson tells narrator Alex O’Henley. “My in-laws live here and they’re a big part of my life. They are wonderful grandparents to my children. The children love coming up here, I love coming up here and we call this place The Cave because I can come here and just turn my phone off, switch off and just have a nice chill out time here. If I just want to relax and take myself away from the limelight this is a unique place for me. I love the Highlands.

“I don’t know if it was the Highland air but sitting in the garden out the back he looked at me and said, ‘I am going to climb that mountain when I get better; I am going to climb Ben Nevis,’” said Sarah. “But it wasn’t actually Ben Nevis! It was a high mountain but it wasn’t Ben Nevis. But I just left him with that thought and almost eight months later that’s exactly what he did.

“John especially, more so than me, wants to come up here. He gets on very well with my mum and they have a lot of banter together. But he loves the area and loves to get away from it all up here. He can relax and always gets a good reception from the people of Lochaber and he really, really enjoys it.”

Hartson also talks openly about his gambling addiction which has troubled the Welshman since his days as a young professional at Luton Town. Three years have passed since he last placed a bet but Hartson still attends Gamblers Anonymous in his native Swansea twice a week and admits he almost lost his wife Sarah over his continued gambling as he recovered from cancer.

“One morning Sarah got up quite early and said that she was leaving me if I carried on gambling,” said the former Welsh international. “She could no longer sit back and watch me put myself through what I was putting myself through. She told me in no uncertain terms, ‘I am going this afternoon and I am leaving you and I’m taking these girls with me’. That was just an incredible moment for me, a sad moment and a very serious moment in my life. They say you have to hit rock bottom if you’re an addict, whether it’s drinking, whether it’s drugs, whether it’s any sort of addiction, and it was the same with myself with the gambling. That was rock bottom for me. I would just as well not be here because what am I without my family? I am nothing.

“Three years is a long time but I’m a baby compared to some of the other guys in the fellowship who have been twenty years clean and I want to get to that mark if I can. I’ll be going to meetings until I’m 70 years of age, if I’m lucky enough to live till I’m 70 because what is two hours out of my week. It’s nothing if it’s keeping me clean. I just see it as picking up my medicine once or twice a week and I will continue to go.”

“I am as proud of him for recovering from being a gambling addict as I am of him recovering from cancer,” Sarah added. “The gambling was always there. I never realised how bad it was until John became very ill because then I had to take charge of the finances and he hid a lot from me. So when I did start to look and delve in and take charge I realised how bad the problem was.”

In the documentary Hartson, his family and doctors describe the emergency operations and the night he almost died, with contributions also from former team-mates and managers including Neil Lennon, Martin O’Neill, Alan Shearer and Robbie Savage.

‘Big John’ was produced by Avanti Media for BBC ALBA and is narrated by football broadcaster and commentator Alex O’Henley. It will be shown on BBC ALBA on Thursday 18th December at 9.00pm with a repeat showing two nights later on Saturday 20th December at 11.00pm.

John Hartson

Anns a’ phrògram ‘Big John’, gheibh sinn sgeulachd an seann chluicheadair ball-coise a bha aig Celtic - John Hartson. Gheibh sinn sealladh air mar a chuidich an gràdh a bh’ aige don Ghàidhealtachd e nuair a bha e a’ fulang le aillse.

Còig bliadhna an dèidh obair-lannsa a shàbhail a bheatha, tha e ag innse mar a chuir e roimhe fhèin gun dìreadh e Beinn Nibheis gus faighinn seachad air a thinneas. Bidh e a-nis a’ dìreadh na beinne seo gach bliadhna le caraidean agus daoine a chùm taic ris, gus airgead a chruinneachadh airson a’ charthannais a chuir e fhèin air chois. Ach tha a bhean Sarah ag innse nach robh e mothachail air meud an rud a chuir e roimhe fhèin.

“Tha àite sònraichte aig a’ Ghàidhealtachd nam chridhe agus bha seo air leth cudromach dhomh”, tha Hartson ag innse do neach-lìbhrigidh a’ phrògraim, Alex O’Henley. “Tha mo phàrantan chèile a’ fuireach an seo agus tha iad mar phàirt mhòr dha mo bheatha. Tha an t-àite seo cuideachd cudromach dha ar cuid chloinne agus bidh sinn a’ tighinn an seo gus fois agus sìth fhaighinn”.

Tha Hartson a’ bruidhinn gu fosgailte mun dòigh san robh e na thràill do bhith a’ cur gheall no ‘gambling’ bho làithean òige na chluicheadair aig Luton Town. Tha trì bliadhna bho nach do chuir e aon gheall ach tha e fhathast a’ frithealadh choinneamhan Gamblers Anonymous ann an Swansea. Cha mhòr nach do chaill e a bhean Sarah, ’s e fhathast a’ cur gheall agus e aig an aon àm a’ strì ri bhith a’ faighinn thairis air an aillse.

Gheibh sinn a-mach bho Hartson fhèin, a theaghlach agus dotairean mar a chaidh leis na h-obraichean lannsa èiginneach air an oidhche air an do theàb e a bheatha a chall. Cluinnear cuideachd bho Neil Lennon, Martin O’Neill, Alan Shearer agus Robbie Savage.

Chaidh ‘Big John’ a riochdachadh le Avanti Media airson BBC ALBA le Alex O’Henley ag aithris. Thèid a chraoladh air BBC ALBA air 18 Dùbhlachd aig 9f le ath-chraoladh air 20 Dùbhlachd aig 11f.


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