Matthew Craig is an inspiration to everyone who knows him.
To those who don’t I’m just about to give them some context about a boy who has already faced far more adversity in his 17 years on this planet than most face in their lifetime.
On Christmas Eve in 2013 Matthew, aged only 12, was diagnosed with a rare bone cancer.
Aye, Merry Christmas to you too.
What happened next was an incredible test of his character and spirit during a nerve-shredding cancer journey with his big brother Scott and his mum and dad Karen and Chris along with his extended family and group of close friends.
The popular kid, who had shown real promise as an athlete with Kirkintilloch Olympians, required the full works to eliminate the cancer and chemotherapy preceded a life saving operation to remove the tumour on his hip.
That resulted with Matthew requiring a new hip and learning to walk all over again.
Last Saturday morning this incredible kid cycled to the top of the iconic Crow Road in the Campsie Fells in memory of his grandfather Fred Craig who sadly passed away cycling on that very same hill almost a year to the day of Matthew’s challenge.
1000 vertical feet of climbing in just over 3 miles is quite an ask for most cyclists. For Matt it was a special effort as he had only started to ride a bike again last year.
But, along with his brother, dad and a 30-strong support group of cyclists he did it.
Every pedal stroke was for his grandfather AND Teenage Cancer Trust – the charity that his family and friends fundraise for after the support they received from TCT during his time in hospital and since he returned home.
So, why am I telling you all of this?
Let’s just say that this story should serve as a reminder to EVERY young footballer to make the most of the opportunities that they are presented with and to never take anything for granted.
Why? Because it can all change in the blink of an eye – just ask Matthew Craig about that.
If a young player REALLY wants to be the best they can be then it will take hard work, dedication and a learning cycle that will last until their last day in the game.
More players at all levels need to look in the mirror more often and ask if they can do more to improve. Most, if they are honest, will say of course they could.
Whether that is on the training pitch or away from it only they will know but there are so many facets to being a footballer nowadays that there is no place for shortcuts.
Is it any wonder that the best players on the planet are those who work hardest at it?
From Ronald and Messi on the World stage to Tierney and Robertson in Scottish terms the formula is the same – dedication, determination and application.
Too many youngsters want the plaudits without putting in the hard shift. Some are too quick to blame others for their shortcomings rather than really grabbing the opportunity that they are given and making the most of it.
Not that I am saying it is all a bed of roses being involved in football.
Will there be low points on that journey? Of course there will be.
Is it possible that they will ask if all the effort is worth it? Probably.
And, do you always get what you think you deserve out of it? Seldom.
But, and this where Matthew Craig comes back in, imagine asking the same things about your cancer journey rather than your football career?
There is perspective for you right there.
But, from day one Matthew Craig showed a maturity and resilience way older than his tender years. His attitude and application to his recovery has allowed him to return to athletics with the Forth Valley Flyers and he has shown real promise in seated throws.
Last Saturday was the perfect demonstration that Matthew Craig will be defined by what he can do and not characterised by what he can’t.
He continues to seize the day and continues to inspire everyone who knows him.
Well in Champ.