The op was postponed with a week to go.We were all devastated that we'd had to wait for the operation but delighted that we could go to Cardiff. Explain that emotion to his older brother! Before that, on 1st May, my little son, aged 3 months old, with his difficult breathing, lay asleep on me as all the action happened at Ninian Park. I remember when James O'Connor's equaliser went in, I was "watching" Radio Wales on Sky, my brother-in-law rang, speechless, giving out a monosylabic whine, it was almost a moment when, Stan's chest held to mine, I was, via James O'Connor, breathing life into my boy. I didn't realise it at the time, but it's perhaps one of the most intense moments of my life. See from 1'25" for the goal here. Stan had a new date, 20th May. So, off to Cardiff for the match.
The first half was a dream, and I "woke up" at half time with the realisation that Stan was going to survive if Brentford didn't beat us. In truth there was only one team that day, and Brentford heads were dropping early in the second half. Try telling me that, though. I have a vague recollection of Stoke fans singing with two minutes to go, but I still thought that Brentford were going to come back and score three. When the final whistle went, it was a religious moment. Wow. Stan had a chance. Job done. On to the hospital. (OK, before we left we danced on our seats to Status Quo's "Rocking all over the World") Stan had his op on 20th May, and the recovery went wrong, he nearly died and he had another operation on 30th May. Football helped me through this awful time.
The next day the World Cup started and Stan started to improve. So May 2002 was all about football, from 1st to 31st. And it was all about Stan. There's no doubt that medical advances mean that he survived when he wouldn't have done if he'd been born ten years earlier. We now have check ups once a year and he may need further surgery. At the moment, though, he's running around, signing instead of talking, and he's started at his brother's school in the nursery.Stan's surgeon was called Victor. Victor is, understandably, a complete hero to me. But so is James O'Connor. Because he scored the right goal at the right time and breathed life back into our beautiful Stanley. Sorry Brentford fans; we had to win that match. And I can't wait to tell Stan about 11th May 2002, one day.