Pompey hero focused on '˜moving forward'
Alan McLoughlin doesn't want a fuss.
The Pompey hero doesn’t want a drama, doesn’t want unnecessary attention and he certainly doesn’t want people feeling sorry for him.
But McLoughlin has a story to tell – a story which can save lives.
‘If you splash big headlines about this everywhere I’ll bang you on the nose,’ says the Academy coach as he prepares to tell a tale that demands to be listened to.
Six weeks ago the Blues hall of famer had a kidney containing a cancerous tumour removed.
A routine stop-off at Fratton Park after an under-14 game at AFC Wimbledon set in motion a sequence of events which would have been enough to strike fear into the toughest of souls.
After urinating blood, McLoughlin immediately rushed himself to hospital.
It’s a move which he will be forever thankful he made.
‘I was dropping kit off after an under-14s game when I went to the toilet,’ said McLoughlin as he relives his journey.
‘Nothing was happening and I thought that was unusual, so I pushed a bit harder – and blood came out.
‘It was a massive shock, so I shouted to Lucas McCardle, who is our Academy physio.
‘He thought I’d collapsed but saw me and told me to get straight to hospital, so I have a lot to thank him for.
‘I composed myself, drove back to Swindon and went to the hospital.
‘They thought, at first, it was potentially a kidney or gallstone, so I stayed in overnight and had a scan the next morning.
‘It was after that a doctor came in, pulled the screen around and told me I had a tumour in my kidney.
‘Your head is spinning at that stage and the first thing I was worried about was telling Deby my wife, my two girls and my mum and dad.
‘I even ended up apologising to the doctor for him having to tell me!
‘Then it was a case of dealing with it.
‘It was quite difficult the next day. I had a scan to see if it was anywhere else.
‘Thankfully, it showed that it was confined to my kidney, so, five weeks later, I had the kidney removed.’
Coming to terms with being dealt such a cruel blow has been a challenge McLoughlin has wasted little time in facing up to.
But it’s one he has been able to do side by side with his family, who have been through the most heart-wrenching of periods.
Four days before McLoughlin underwent surgery he, wife Deby and daughters Megan and Abby lost their close friend Shelley Chamberlain to breast cancer.
He is certain he wouldn’t have made it without them.
‘Obviously, I have to thank my family who have supported me through this, along with my friends,’ said McLoughlin.
‘They’ve been brilliant. And then there’s Andy Awford, all the staff really at the club.
‘But it’s as much about Deby and what she’s done for me as anything.
‘It’s the support of family and friends which has allowed me to get on with what I want to do.
‘There are lots of people who have been where I’ve been and dealt with forms of cancer.
‘It’s hard on family members and friends – they go through a lot.
‘Shelley was an important part of our life and we miss her terribly.
‘She was our friend and my wife’s best friend. She was very close with her until she passed away from breast cancer.
‘My wife’s had a real tough time of it recently with Shelley passing away and my issue at the same time.
‘She died on the Thursday and I had my operation on the Monday.
‘Lee, her husband and my best friend, was there for me, too, despite all that he has been through.
‘I genuinely feel I wouldn’t be back at Fratton Park working if it wasn’t for these people being there to give me a kick up the backside.’
It’s that return to work in a role as lead development coach for Pompey’s under-12 through to under-16 age groups that tells you all you need to know about McLoughlin.
The 45-year-old was back at the club taking in games and training sessions just 12 days after surgery.
Why? Because he didn’t’ want to let anyone down. Well, that and the rubbish television!
That attitude will be of little surprise to fans who saw the midfielder marry work ethic with passing and finishing quality in nearly eight years and 354 appearances at Fratton Park.
Not that he’s looking for recognition for a truly awe-inspiring return to his duties. That’s not Macca.
Nor is there time for self-pity – and those who know McLoughlin won’t be surprised to hear he isn’t entertaining it from others, either.
‘I hate people who feel sorry for themselves,’ said McLoughlin, in typical no-nonsense fashion.
‘If you are feeling sorry for yourself you are not moving forward.
‘It’s important the kids didn’t think I was away for too long, too.
‘It was 12 days after the operation that I went to a training session.
‘To be honest, I didn’t want to watch Homes Under The Hammer anymore!
‘I couldn’t sit around on the sofa for any longer but it’s also about moving on.
‘The wife helped and told me to get on with it when the time was right.
‘She gave me a certain amount of time but knew when to loosen the reins slightly.
‘There were others to take the slack but it was important for my own self-confidence and self-worth to push on.
‘It’s taking it one bit at a time – and dusting yourself down and carrying on if there’s an issue. I’ve been taught that since I was very young.
‘I don’t want people feeling sorry for me, either. It’s for me to deal with and get on with.
‘It’s not for anyone to look at me forlornly and think: “He’s a poor bloke”.
‘It’s not like that. Macca’s fine, thanks.
‘The last thing I want is to view what has happened in a sad way.
‘I don’t like to dwell on the past and like to be positive and move forward.
‘I don’t want people being uncomfortable around me and watching what they say.
‘I’d rather people crack a joke and I treat people as normal.’
With McLoughlin now fully restored in his role at the Academy, he feels he can afford himself a glance towards the future – a positive future.
It’s one tinged with perspective at the voyage he has been on in recent months.
The drive which carried him through a career in the game and international highs remains firmly in place.
And with Pompey still battling for their existence, McLoughlin is determined to win that scrap after taking on his own fight for survival.
He said: ‘I’ve always been a positive person. I must be to move from Southampton to Portsmouth! You need guts to do that!
‘There are challenges in life and you need to meet them head on. It’s an ongoing process but I’m looking forward.
‘Obviously, you have your good days and bad days but you have to be brave.
‘There are some things you can’t legislate for, like being fit and healthy.
‘Just because I’m an ex-professional footballer doesn’t discount me from picking up ailments and illnesses like anyone else.
‘People are shocked about it and think you’re invincible. Well, that’s not the case.
‘It’s been tough mentally and psychologically but everyone has to be tough and move on.
‘There are challenges at this football club and my challenge is to take this club forward. That’s where my focus is. I want to keep well and move forward.
‘The Academy is incredibly important to this football club – and this club has always been special to me.
‘I’m back involved, thinking positively moving forward.
‘That’s what I’ve done, that’s what I’ve always done and what I want to pass on.
‘I want to be better and I want this football club to be better.’