John Deehan’s family reveal former Aston Villa and Norwich City player has dementia

The family of John Deehan, the former Aston Villa and Norwich City player and manager, have announced that he has been living with dementia for the past six years after being diagnosed at the age of just 58.

Deehan, who was a striker, has been told that he has Alzheimer’s Disease, a condition that former footballers are five times more likely to die from than the wider population.

Telegraph Sport successfully campaigned for the research, which was commissioned exactly five years ago, which proved football’s dementia link and is now calling on the football industry to finally establish a care fund for the hundreds of former players who are suffering from neurodegenerative disease.

In a statement released via The Jeff Astle Foundation, Linda Deehan said that her husband, who is now 64, has “good and bad days” but remains passionate about football.

Deehan, who helped Norwich win the 1985 League Cup and also reached the 1977 final with Aston Villa, is a member of the Norwich City Hall of Fame. He also worked as a player-coach at Manchester City and was on the coaching staff at Norwich City when Mike Walker’s team finished third in the inaugural Premier League season.

A distinguished coaching and scouting career also included spells at Wigan Athletic, Northampton Town, Aston Villa, Sheffield United, Huddersfield, Lincoln, Bolton, Grimsby and Plymouth.

“Now it seems like the right time to inform you that for several years my husband John Deehan, former Aston Villa, WBA, Norwich City and Ipswich Town center forward, has been battling a neurodegenerative disease,” said Linda Deehan.

“He endeavors to continue to live and enjoy a normal life, as best as possible, however almost every day we are confronted with a new challenge. If you come across him at a match or elsewhere, please don’t be afraid to interact with him.

“Please understand that John may not be able to converse in the way he once did, but he still loves to talk about football and share a laugh. Please be considerate if he is having a bad day and struggling. This disease plays tricks on his memory of him, so he may not be able to remember accurately, and he may find signing autographs a challenge. Even though things have not ended as we had planned we continue to live our lives as best we can.”

Five of England’s 1966 World Cup-winning team have publicly revealed a dementia diagnosis and, according to research by the University of Glasgow, the dramatically elevated rates among footballers have shown no decline since the sport evolved to using a synthetic ball during the 1980s.

Outfield players, particularly centre-backs, are at particularly acute risk, suggesting a link not just to collisions but repeated heading.

Tommy Charlton, the brother of Sir Bobby and Jack, who have both suffered dementia, said that he “fails to see how it can be possible to head the ball so many times and not develop some sort of damage”.

John Stiles, the son of England and Manchester United legend Nobby Stiles, also told ITV this week that “virtually nothing has been done” for former footballers since his father died in 2020. “It’s very disappointing,” he said. “These footballers should know the risks and then they can make their own informed decision.”

Tommy Charlton said that, “football is absolutely swimming in money, no problem with money and yet you’ve got players who’ve given their lives, and who were heroes to the fans, who are suffering for the lack of help”.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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