WHAT with tonight's (Monday) west London derby in W12, Colin Hale and Don Shanks provide an update on behalf of the JustForStan committee – set up to aid QPR and Brentford icon Stan Bowles in his continued fight against Alzheimer’s disease.
STAN, as we all know, is fighting Alzheimer’s.
It’s heartbreaking for me to report this, but it’s a battle he’s sadly losing.
Both QPR and Brentford fans – and the footballing public at large – have been tremendous in not only raising much-needed funds for Stan, but also in raising awareness of the awful disease that has gripped QPR’s greatest-ever player.
Stan could beat a defender with one move; sadly the disease is not so easily beaten. Once gripped, it does not let go and that is the most-distressing part.
Stan is losing his particular battle and will soon be in need of full-time care home residency. That is when the money that you have all so kindly donated will be put to its fullest use. However, as you will have read, care home residency is not cheap and we want the best for Stan, so we must try and keep the funds flowing in.
I visited Stan and the family recently and also visited the Bowles family’s preferred care home. It’s lovely; a real home from home; has excellent staff and facilities; and is in close proximity to the family home. It ticks all the boxes and would be perfect for Stan and his ongoing battle with this cruel disease.
While Stan is struggling, he still retains that cheeky smile and there are times when the light bulb comes on and he can remember, albeit only briefly, something of his past life.
To see him point at a picture of himself and hear him say, ‘That’s me’ still brings a tear to my eye, and I am only a supporter. You can imagine if it does that to me, a mere fan, how it must make the family feel.
I am amazed at the courage and fortitude shown by his children Andrea, Tracy and Carl – more so Andrea, who has the 24/7 task of looking after Stan.
That said, memories of Stan are high with everyone, so it’s best to embrace these memories. We all have our own special memories of Stan and one of the most-lasting must be the footage of him jigging around on the pitch at half-time at his Benefit Match to ‘The Boys Are Back In Town’ – a renowned song written by his good friend, Phil Lynott.
On that day, along with Don Shanks and Gerry Francis, the boys were most definitely back in town, but more importantly ‘Stan The Man’ was back, albeit only momentarily.
That brings me nicely on to Don, another old mate of Stan’s, and perhaps his best friend. Don worked tirelessly on the Benefit Match with me.
Don and I would once again like to thank Ashley Holding, Paul Finney and Sarah Benjafield-Clarke for all the help and assistance given to us as we planned Stan’s game. We would also like to thank Adrian Wade (a third-generation QPR fan living in Canada) for producing and updating the www.JustForStan.com website and particularly for responding to my e-mails for required updates to the site almost immediately, despite the time difference.
A special thanks also goes to Robert Elms, a lifelong QPR fan, who not only ensured that the Benefit Match received exposure on his BBC London radio show, but also made such a magnificent job of hosting the W12 Suite event on the day. His chats with Gerry Francis. John Hollins, Ian Gillard and other former players were both nostalgic and special.
You can still access this video by going to the JustForStan website. It’s marvellous entertainment and if you enjoyed it as much as I did, I would encourage you to drop some money into Stan’s GoFundMe account as a thank you to Stan for giving us more memories to savour.
As Lee Hoos pointed out at the recent QPR fans’ forum, we cannot make every QPR fixture against one of Stan’s former clubs a ‘Stan Day’. But that does not mean to say that individuals or groups cannot continue to raise funds for Stan. Even the smallest of initiatives adds value to the fund.
Coming up soon, we shall be auctioning the JustForStan warm-up shirts worn by the QPR players before the Benefit Match against AFC Bournemouth in July. Each shirt is signed by the player wearing it on the day and is totally-unique. It would make a fantastic Christmas present for any QPR supporter, but in particular for those of us old enough to remember Stan in his prime at Rangers. For further details, visit www.JustForStan.com
As a player, Stan was special. He was unique. He was loved by all – perhaps with the exception of those defenders he left trailing in his wake and put firmly on their backsides!
As his condition worsens, myself, Don and everyone involved on the JustForStan committee would love to see the GoFundMe account go ballistic once again following this article.
Your generosity has been tremendous, and we cannot keep asking for your contributions, but we can ask that from time to time you remember Stan and remember that the GoFundMe account remains open to donations to ensure that Stan lives as comfortably as possible in his remaining years.
May I once again thank both sets of supporters for all that you have done for Stan in the past, and urge you to continue that support in whatever way you can.
A FINAL WORD
By Don Shanks
WELL, it’s a few weeks until Christmas – and Stan is still battling away, trying to stay in the game.
Each day throws up a different challenge. His sheer existence is put to task on a daily basis. What goes through someone’s mind with this terrible condition? How can he muster up a smile?
But somehow, he does. He manages to give us a glimpse of the Stanley we all knew.
People ask me, ‘What do you do when you’re with Stan?’ I just play a supporting role. I sit next to Stan, nodding and occasionally laughing.
Stan’s main words are ‘yeah’ or ‘okay’. There is no other conversation. It’s just eye contact and infectious laughing, now and then.
I have to say, Stan’s kids have been incredible. To say that I really admire them would be a huge understatement.
They treat Dad like everything’s okay – never a word on Alzheimer’s or dementia, they just get on with life. They take Dad to the toilet or for a cigarette. That’s everyday life now for Stan.
He’s got to the stage where he now has a ‘reverse lager top’ – three quarters lemonade and a splash of beer, as he can’t really think anymore.
As many of you will be aware, Stan’s gambling has always been part of his life. But not anymore. He just walks straight past the bookies. They no longer exist in his mind.
I had a great time when at Stan’s daughter Tracy’s house, in Manchester, doing a news piece for ITV.
Stan had a kick-around with his grandaughter Maisie, and I would say that it was the last time that we’ll see the great man kick a football.
I felt warmth from Stan that day, a certain feeling of happiness. It was like he’d achieved something, even though it was only a little kick-around with Maisie in the garden – and albeit temporary.
I can still see in his face that he is trying to talk, but the words just won’t come out. It’s tough for everybody.
My mate, your friend, our hero is going through this.
So from me, and also on Stan’s behalf, a big, big thank you to everybody who has gone out of their way to raise money to help Stan be comfortable when he finally moves into new surroundings.
The club have been fantastic, while all you fans have been an inspiration to Stan and his family, going to events and supporting his Benefit Match.
For me, personally, walking around the pitch with Stan and his son Carl at half-time of that Benefit Match v Bournemouth in July was the most-emotional thing I’ve ever done. There were fans crying, and all were in top voice.
Stan was also emotional. At that point, you really did feel that Stan meant something.
As I mentioned, Christmas is coming up, and it looks like Stan will be going into a care home imminently, probably early in the New Year.
If people could dig deep and put some more money into his GoFundMe account, that would be great. You’ve all been fantastic.
Our visitors tonight, Brentford, have also raised cash for Stan’s cause. Thank you to all the Bees supporters – as well as many other fans of clubs worldwide who have tried to help Stanley in this battle that he’s going through.
And a final thanks to Colin Hale. Without Colin, all these fundraising efforts wouldn’t be possible. He has organised and brought everything together.
A lot of people have given their all for the benefit of Stan’s condition.
Just finally, I asked Stan in Manchester around a year ago, ‘How are you, Stan?’
‘Yeah, I’m still here!’ he said.
That’s right, he’s still here. And may he be here for a long, long time to come.
Thank you – and God bless you all.
You can still support Stan and his ongoing care by visiting: www.gofundme.com/StanBowles