My friend Danny Fullbrook
Danny Fullbrook died of cancer in the early hours of Monday morning, he was just forty years old and had been battling cancer for eighteen months, he leaves behind his ten year old son.
As I write that sentence it barely seems true and despite the flood of tributes that have poured in for Danny this week I can’t believe we’re not going to see, or hear, from him again. There are a group of us who have been close friends for more than 20 years since we met as undergraduates at Hull University in the Autumn of 1990 and in all that time we have jointly shared life’s ups & downs, but we’ve experienced nothing like what the last 18 months and certainly not the last few weeks have brought.
If you take the time to search Danny Fullbrook on twitter you’ll find a huge volume of tributes in his memory that have been posted over the last days and they all share the same core message, Danny was one of life’s good guys, Danny had an energy and enthusiasm for life that was rarely if ever surpassed, Danny loved football and more than anything he loved being a football journalist.
The first time I met Danny was in the University bar, which is unsurprising because we both spent a lot of time there, and during the course of that first conversation he told me that he was going to be a football journalist, note that he didn’t say that was what he wanted to do but rather it was what he was going to do. How many people do you know who at the age of 18 have a dream that big that they go on to fulfill?
Ten years later Danny became the chief football reporter for the Daily Star, the youngest reporter ever to reach that position on a national newspaper and we were all incredibly proud of him. In the years that followed we read his columns, watched him on the TV, texted him incessantly for the latest gossip but most of all we admired this kid, our friend, who had turned his teenage dreams into a professional reality.
I’m so proud that Danny was my friend, I’m proud that he achieved so much in such a tragically short amount of time, I’m proud that so many people felt moved to pay tribute to him this week not least the manager & captain of the England team about whom he was so passionate – but most of all I’m proud that he was such a genuine & lovely guy. He had a kind word for everyone and, whilst he’d argue the last ounce out of any football debate, he didn’t have a bad bone in his body which is why the tributes to him this week have been so remarkably consistent.
His professional colleagues called him Fearless which couldn’t be more apt because he wasn’t afraid of anything. He wasn’t afraid to dream big, he wasn’t afraid to live his life to the full, he wasn’t afraid to commit himself to everything he did with an enthusiasm that had to be seen to be believed and he wasn’t afraid to stand firm behind his own beliefs.
Danny and I spent a lot of time texting each other, it was the staple means of communication in our relationship, and I’ve been reading back over those texts a lot in the last few weeks. Even as he was starting to lose his battle he was still hitting me with some incredibly accurate insights, on the morning of May 19th he texted me that he expected West Ham to win the play off final and Chelsea to win the champions league final – right on both counts. Perhaps most tellingly he texted a few days later in response to a less than flattering note I sent him about Roy Hodgson, “you’re wrong about Hodgy”, he said, “he’ll do a lot better than you think”. That was the last text I got from him before he became too ill to write his own texts and his sister Jo had to take over but so far, as usual, he’s been right and I’ve been wrong which is why he was one of fleet streets finest and why it’s so tragic that we have all been robbed of the pleasure of reading his views for many years to come.
Like all of his friends and colleagues I’m struggling to accept that we’ve lost him but our loss is small compared to the hole he’ll leave in the lives of his Mum, Dad, Sister & son and it’s with them that I rest my thoughts & prayers.
We’ll say our goodbyes to him on Monday but he’ll be in our hearts forever – love ya Danny boy.