'I live for football': Ex-Portsmouth coach Louis Bell on being a manager again - despite tragic cancer set-back

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Defiant Louis Bell has shrugged off his latest cancer battle to become Paulsgrove’s new manager.

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He discovered the cancer had returned in January, this time in his pancreas, requiring an operation, which he has put back until after his daughter’s wedding on July 19.

In the meantime, Paulsgrove have announced Bell has stepped up from assistant manager to take over from boss Johnny Willett at the Hampshire Premier League Senior Division club.

Louis Bell has been appointed Paulsgrove manager - although he is also facing a fresh battle against cancer.Louis Bell has been appointed Paulsgrove manager - although he is also facing a fresh battle against cancer.
Louis Bell has been appointed Paulsgrove manager - although he is also facing a fresh battle against cancer. | None

It coincides with their switch to the newly-constructed KGV Sports Complex for next season, leaving behind their Allaway Avenue home.

As ever, the infectiously enthusiastic Bell is focused on achieving footballing success rather than dwelling on his own health issues.

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He told The News: ‘Football is keeping me sane, it’s my passion, it’s my life and always will be. That is my drug.

‘You are never clear of cancer, it will get me at some point. It’s like weeds growing in your garden, no matter how many you pull up or poison, they come back. In the meantime, you’ve got to get on with your life.

‘Pre-season starts on Saturday morning, with training twice a week and good friendlies lined up. I’m looking to bring in some younger lads to coach them into becoming better players.

‘Doctors found my latest cancer during a check-up in January. It hasn’t got any bigger, but needs to be operated on. That was meant to happen in February, but my blood sugars were so high during the pre-op medical that it was cancelled.

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‘I was then supposed to go in next month, but it was just before my daughter’s due to get married and obviously I didn’t want to miss that. So it will now take place some time after.

‘I feel fine, I feel great. Apparently this one isn’t life threatening, they’ve told me it’s not anything to worry about, just a routine thing.

‘I can still coach, I’m still active, although delegation is a good thing and I have a lot of really good coaches around me.

‘Many times I’ve said I would never come back into football, but the bug’s got me. I love it, it’s everything to me.

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‘Cancer is a clever, clever disease, you think you’ve got rid of it and, all of a sudden, it pops up somewhere else.

‘I can’t complain, though, there are a lot of people worse off than me. I’m 61 and still here.’

The diabetic helped boss Willett oversee an 11th-placed finish and was eager to remain involved for the 2024-25 season.

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With Willett subsequently stepping down to continue as club secretary and treasurer, Bell has taken over the reins, appointing Steve Harris as his assistant, with first-team coach Leigh Ewing joined by last season’s skipper Tom Doughty, who becomes player-coach

The ex-Pompey youth coach and Gosport, Fareham, Horndean and Portchester boss added: ‘Last September, Macer Corcoran called to ask if I would be interested in helping out Johnny and, although I was still going through the chemo, I came back and thoroughly enjoyed it.

‘Johnny has now stepped down as manager. He couldn't do it all, he was doing too much, so couldn't really concentrate on the football side.

‘And we’re really looking forward to seeing what we can do next season.’

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