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Inspiring youth football manager in Southwick is this week's Local Hero
A heroic football manager has proved an inspiration to his young team both on and off the pitch.
Brian Whiteside, manager of the Southwick Rangers Under-12s, has been commended by his community for his dedication in running a team of football-mad youngsters while dealing with the effects of an inoperable brain tumour.
Brian, 42, has been taking charge of Saturday training sessions at Southwick recreation ground and Sussex Sunday Youth League U12 division four matches for more than three years.
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Five years ago the former soldier and dad-of-two was diagnosed with Acromegaly - a syndrome that causes the pituitary gland to produce excess growth hormones.
As a result it causes deformities in his joints and has contributed to angina and bowel conditions.
Movement can cause pain and, he admits, taking training sessions “can be hard work”.
But despite the news, Brian insists the team has saved him from severe depression and continues to guide them through their football education.
He said: “I’ve been doing it for three years so I enjoy it, but it is hard work for me.
“When I was diagnosed five years ago I had to give up work. I was a salesman travelling around the country but couldn’t do it anymore because of the illness.
“I was in the army since aged 16 and the TA from 1993, so I had always been active. Being diagnosed was difficult and I question sometimes what could have caused it. It’s just one of those things.
“But football was what saved me. It’s a cliché but the club and the team has saved me from severe depression.
“They’re a great bunch of kids and we have got really close over the years. They turn up to training whether its freezing cold or raining and it really spurs me on.
“I’ve been in charge of the same group since they were in the under 9s and it’s been brilliant.”
In commemoration of Brian’s efforts more than 50 people gathered at the The Royal George in Shoreham last year to surprise him with a celebratory lunch.
The party, which included his team and their families, celebrated their beloved manager’s efforts with food and drinks in a private function room.
Beryl Reeves, the grandmother of one of the team, said: “It was just such a lovely afternoon. It was nice to have everybody celebrating with him while he is well.
“He was certainly moved by it all.”
For more information on Southwick Rangers and Brian, visit the club website at www.southwickrangers.co.uk.