Just in case you don’t know Harry Newton, he is a young man from Dinton, near Salisbury. He supports Salisbury FC and prior to that he followed the old club Salisbury City FC. Just another football fan, I hear you say. Well, not quite.
Harry sits in a motorized wheelchair. He has no use of his legs and limited use of his arms. His speech sounds a little laboured and it would be easy to dismiss him as ‘disabled’. However, we don’t think he is ‘disabled’ at all. We think he is special. Not special because he sits in a wheelchair or because he supports football but because he is an inspiration. An inspiration to other wheelchair users and to so-called ‘normal’ people.
His determination to not let his condition get in the way of a fulfilled life is humbling. He spends his days working as a volunteer for the South Wiltshire Advocacy Network helping other people cope with their problems. He boasts an enviable collection of BTEC qualifications with distinction, is a member of the Hampshire Cricket Club and a volunteer on the Wiltshire Cricket Board. In 2010, he became the first wheelchair user ever to qualify as a cricket umpire. He loves his cricket almost as much as football live at the RayMac or at Salisbury away fixtures. He hardly ever misses a Salisbury game and when he does, it is usually not by choice but through lack of support. Harry can’t drive to matches himself. He always needs a trusted person to help him.
Many of us, would we find ourselves in his condition, might give up or become bitter and twisted. Not so Harry. You won’t find a nicer, more outgoing and optimistic personality. Have a chat with him at the next match. He loves to talk football, cricket, sport or any other subject. Yes, sometimes the dark blanket of depression gets hold of him but his firm believe in God helps him through those difficult periods. Next Saturday, on 25th March, Harry will celebrate attending his 500th Salisbury football club game and he has loved every one of them good, or bad. In his own words:
“It all started nearly 10 years ago when I was on half term from my specialist boarding school Treloars and boredom was starting to set in. A friend of mine who used to be a supporter of the old club suggested I visited Salisbury City FC to watch a few matches in holiday time. As I was only ever involved with league football I was a bit hesitant about making the massive leap down the pyramid. On that fateful day away to Team Bath at Twerton Park on Saturday 25th October 2008 I fell in love with non-league football.
I have spent my life in a wheelchair due to being born prematurely resulting in Cerebral Palsy because of this I thought watching non-league football would become an issue. Much to my surprise I soon discovered that at this level of football the facilities were a lot better than expected. Clubs do try their level best wherever possible to enhance your match day experience, making sure your needs are catered for. All of this meant that I could attend more than just home games. I have had a few hurdles to jump over but nothing, I might add, has felt unsurmountable. This has now become a permanent fixture in my life and both clubs have become part on my DNA. I have now got to a mini milestone with both clubs combined and I will be reaching my 500th game on the 25th of March 2017 at home to Hereford.”
Congratulations, Harry. We look forward to watching the next 500 with you.