Football: Dad's Deathbed Wish Make It as Pro. He's Was for Me to My Inspiration; STEVEN FLETCHER EXCLUSIVE

Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland), July 30, 2006 | Go to article overview

Football: Dad's Deathbed Wish Make It as Pro. He's Was for Me to My Inspiration; STEVEN FLETCHER EXCLUSIVE


Byline: Scott McDERMOTT

BRAVE soldier Kenny Fletcher had one dying wish.

That his only son Steven would fulfil his dreams and become a professional footballer.

On his deathbed after battling cancer, Kenny urged brother-in-law Billy to take his place and nurture his boy to stardom.

How proud he must be looking down on Steven now.

The Hibs star's driving force in football is the memory of his dad who he cruelly lost at the age of 10.

Every time he pulls on a Hibees or Scotland top or sees the ball hit the back of the net he thinks of his dad and what it would mean if his old man could see him.

Maybe he can.

Former army sergeant Kenny died at just 38 in Liverpool. He was a Scouser, a fanatical Reds fan who regularly took Steven to Anfield.

They had a fantastic father-son relationship so his dad's death hit Steven hard.

But nine years on Fletch revealed to MailSport how Kenny's final words to his uncle Billy have inspired him to where he is now.

At 19, he's one of the hottest properties in Scottish football and already an integral part of Tony Mowbray's Hibs team.

And last week in Poland he was Scotland Under-19s' star man at the European Championship finals.

Steven paid tribute to Billy, who still phones him EVERY day, and mum Mary who have been a tremendous help in his short career.

But it's when he speaks about his dad that you know where Fletch finds the determination, discipline and desire to succeed.

He said: "Just before dad passed away he told Billy, 'Make sure Steven makes it as a pro.'

"So after that he's been on my back ever since. If mum couldn't take me to training or games Billy would do it. He saw it as his personal mission to make sure I became a professional.

"When I heard what dad said before he died it drove me on.

"He's my inspiration - and the biggest thing in my life has been granting his wish.

"I always knew how much he wanted me to be a footballer so I'm delighted to have broken through at Hibs.

"It was mum who told me dad's final words - Billy would NEVER have said.

"I used to wonder why he was so interested in my football, he was with me all the time. Then mum told me.

"He'd follow me to every game I played. He still phones me all the time even though he lives in Spain.

Proud

"When I was in Poland he was on the phone every day without fail. I think he calls me more than his own kids!

"He doesn't get over to see me now as much as he'd like but I won't forget what he did for me.

"I moved in with him when I was a teenager. I had just signed for Hibs so had to be in Scotland.

"Because of what dad had told Billy, mum agreed I could stay at his house.

"I was there for my high school years with Billy and my cousins - it was great.

"When I made my debut and scored goals like at Celtic Park last season I thought of dad and what it would have meant to him.

"Mum and everyone always tell me how proud he would have been and I know that for myself - it's what keeps me going."

Steven, who cruelly missed last night's Under-19 European Championship Final through suspension, loved watching his dad play and supported him in several army cup finals. Kenny was a good player in his day but was desperate to see his boy do even better.

He arranged for Steven to lead Liverpool out at Anfield as a mascot in 1996 where he met the likes of Steven Gerrard and Michael Owen.

But Kenny had an ulterior motive. He was eager to meet his hero Kenny Dalglish (below right) before he died - and got his wish the same day Steven led out his beloved club.

Fletch, who was born in Shrewsbury and could have opted to play for England but chose his mum's native country, said: "Dad was a massive influence. …

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