Goals show Harriet Macey is winning over ADHD, cancer and injury
HER FOOTBALL team may have lost 5-4 but for Harriet Macey it felt like a victory.
When you have been battling attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a broken leg and cancer all at the same time, the joy of scoring two goals is enough in itself.
Four months ago, 17-year-old Harriet went for a check-up on the left leg she had fractured in two places playing football. It had been only her second match back after an operation to remove her appendix.
"I hobbled into the surgery with my cast on," she said. "It was then I found out that I had cancer in my bowel. They had picked it up when they were doing the appendix."
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A month later, on July 12, Harriet underwent surgery to have part of her large bowel removed and, although she must attend London's Royal Free Hospital for a further assessment next month, she has been told she is all clear.
"The cancer thing has gone and this is a new chapter," she said after bagging her first goals since her return.
Coming in the 55th and 67th minutes, following superb first-half strikes from Hayley Reed and Rosie Smith, they put Barnstaple FC 4-2 up over Morley Rangers in their Devon Women's League match at Tews Lane.
But a four-minute spell, from the 79th to 83rd minutes, during which Barnstaple's fingers seemed glued to the self-destruct button, saw the Plymouth-based visitors score three times to take the points.
Nevertheless, Harriet said her goals had given her a big lift. "I feel like crying," she said. Manager Dennis Hassan added: "Today will be a big booster because she knows she can score again."
Dennis has played a major role in Harriet's development. Without him, she thinks she would not be playing.
As an ADHD sufferer, Harriet is inclined towards restlessness, which can spill over into indiscipline on the football pitch.
"Harry has been with me for about five years and she managed to upset every manager in the league before me," said Dennis. "She came to me with really bad ADHD and she tended to become the boss wherever she went."
Harriet said: "I thought I could run the training sessions, everything, but football has taught me discipline and so has Dennis. All the other managers let me walk over them but Dennis bulldozes me back down to earth.
"I have stepped over the line a lot of times and suffered the consequences. I have been banned, sent to sit on the corner of the pitch and been embarrassed.
"But I have learnt to calm down and coming back today and scoring two goals has been a dream for me because I have been really ill."
Dennis has had to hold her back from doing too much too soon.
"She has got a little bit of fitness to come back but scoring the goals today is going to build her confidence up loads," he said.
"She has been trying to push herself and we have been holding her back. She can throw herself in too much – she was back within two weeks trying to train. I would not let her play and she called me a few names.
"She has had trials at some big clubs (Plymouth Argyle and Exeter City) and she would have succeeded if it was not for her attitude at the time."
Harriet said: "I was going to go for Arsenal trials but mentally I wasn't ready because my attitude was so bad.
"If it wasn't for Dennis I don't think I would be playing anymore. He has got a decent relationship with my mum and dad and he is inspirational. If it was any other manager I would not be here."
Built on a philosophy of having fun, rather than worrying about results, Dennis entered Barnstaple into adult football last season largely with a squad fresh out of under-16s.
Making their debut in the second tier of the Devon League, they finished bottom but remarkably were runners-up in the Supplementary Cup.
After failing to raise a side for two late-season fixtures, they were deducted six points, cancelling out their two victories. There was no question of quitting, though.
The manager adhered to the same guiding principle that had seen him take the plunge in adult football with a team comprising mainly 16 and 17-year-olds.
"We thought it was a risk but it wasn't about winning and losing," said Dennis. "It was about keeping a team that had been together for a while.
"Unfortunately a few players did leave (this season) because they are of a good standard and maybe my methodology was not what they wanted. Some people want to be winners, others want to play and enjoy."
Using rolling substitutes, the manager ensures all his squad get worthwhile time on the pitch, whereas other teams might work to their strengths most of the time. It was that, said Dennis, that cost his team victory over Morley.
"Some we had on the pitch maybe had not trained as much as some we had on the bench," he said.
"I thought at 4-2 I could shore things up and let a couple of the players play. It was the wrong decision but all my players played an equal amount of time."
Hayley Reed's 17th-minute shot into the roof of the net, set up by Louise Page, was cancelled out when Danielle Krac followed up to score at the second attempt after he shot had come back off goalkeeper Chelsea Hassan.
Chelsea, the manager's 17-year-old daughter, is named after the Premier League team.A Chelsea fan like her dad? "I have to be don't I? There's no option," she said.
With a touch of the Petr Cechs, she repelled a shot from Rosie Burridge but could do nothing to keep out Krac's effort for the visitors' second goal.
The Barnstaple captain, Rosie Smith, made it 2-2 before half time with a wonderful free kick over the defensive wall and Harriet gave her team the lead after turning on the spot, battering her way through two defenders and firing past the keeper. Morley's failure to clear a corner gave Harriet her second goal from close range.
However, player of the match Krac went on to complete her hat-trick with a ferocious 20-yard drive and Gabi Alphous scored twice to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
"We played a lot better than the result tells you," said Rosie."Either side of half time we could have scored another three or four goals. The fitness needs work but we are progressing with every game."
With four defeats and only one win from their five league matches, the team remain in good spirits, largely because their manager encourages them to have fun, which often involves a "silly theme" on matchdays.
On Sunday players and manager arrived sporting "one shoe, one wellie", offering a colourful assortment of footwear before and after the game. In the past, it has been silly hats, half make-up and onesies.
"We are going to Torquay (Plainmoor Ladies) next weekend and we are going as zombies for Halloween," said Dennis as the players departed."Yes! That's so cool, I cannot wait," screamed Harriet.
Definition of zombie? "A person who is, or appears to be, lifeless." That will be quite a change for Harriet Macey.