They say you should never meet your heroes.
And they are right as they rarely live up to the level of worship you bestowed from afar.
There are exceptions and I am most fortunate that I get paid to watch the football club I supported as a boy. I am also fortunate as I got to move in the same orbit as the people I revered as a kid.
Tommy Robson and Chris Turner to name just two. Both were great Peterborough United servants, but most importantly both were great men, albeit in their own vastly different ways.
Chris wasn’t shy in letting you know you’d irritated him, but then his deeds earnt him the right to be abrupt.
Tommy, a club record 559 appearances, a ton of goals, and tireless work behind the scenes, also earnt the right to be selfish with his time and generosity, but, in my experience, he never has been.
He is the same at 75 as he was at 25. Cheerful, funny, full of self-deprecation, loyal, dedicated to his club and grateful for everything life has given him.
Only he’s not the same now. Only once, just a few weeks ago, did I bump into the great man and find him anything but chatty. It was outside Sainsbury’s and he looked sad and lost. I now know he was waiting for the results of medical tests.
Those results weren’t good. In fact they were awful. He has been diagnosed with motor neurone disease and his time is now limited.
Typically Tommy’s reaction has been inspiringly optimistic. When the news of his illness broke he put a positive spin on it and spoke of his determination to fight it off, just as he has a severe heart attack six years earlier.
Three days after his problems became public he was working at Posh in his usual bouncy, charismatic manner, entertaining guests at the ground with funny stories and soundbites.
Physically he still looks like he could gallop bandy-legged down the wing before tumbling in the penalty area hoping to win a spot-kick.
Tommy often joked he invented diving well before pleyers from overseas arrived in the country.
He also laughed when I told him I’d written his obituary before he successfully came through triple heart by-pass surgery.
The overwhelming amount of love and affection towards Tommy when his recent diagnosis was revealed came as no surprise to me, but the man himself was shocked.
He’s never seen himself as a hero. He called me to thank the Peterborough Telegraph for our coverage and to make sure we thanked everyone who got in touch with him to express their best wishes.
I’m doing that here and I hope enough of us contribute to the ‘just giving page’ set up in recognition of the service to make the next few years (and knowing Tommy it will be a few) as comfortable as possible.
To donate to Tommy’s fund visit: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/tommyrobsonposhlegend.