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During the 1965 Scottish Cup final at Hampden, THEY led their teams to the pitch as Celtic defeated Dunfermline Athletic 3-2.
They were competitors on the pitch that day (Billy McNeill scored the winning goal) and mates off it. The soccer career of Jim Maclean, first with Ayr United and then as Dunfermline’s captain, led to four hip operations at the age of 30 and forced retirement.
The 82-year-old, like Billy, now has Alzheimer’s disease.
His wife, Mary, is persuaded that his diagnosis is linked to sports, and headers in particular. Both Jim and Billy played central defense and were adept at ball-heading.
I always maintained that as a header player, it was caused by his years,”I’ve always maintained that it was caused by his years as a header player,” “Without a shadow of a doubt, many of his footballer mates, including Billy McNeill, died of dementia. “Jimmy knew Billy well, they were playing at the same time.”
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Mary, 58, who lives in an assisted living facility in Glasgow’s West End with Jimmy, says she wrote last year to the Scottish Football Association (SFA) to inquire if there was any support available for retired players affected by dementia. She says she was told there was none. The FA also does not provide any help, although there is a charitable fund provided by the Professional Football Association (PFA) that offers small charity funds.
Mary said, “They get support in England and it could be £ 100 a month.” I wrote to them and got a letter back, saying that we’re very sorry to hear about your husband, but former footballers don’t have any support.
“A fund would make a big difference because then you could enjoy your life. If someone has asbestosis, they get financial support from the government. Dementia is not recognized in the same way.”
She notes that her lawyers have told her that any future argument against clubs or the soccer authorities will be time-barred. It is known that it is possible that lawsuits would be brought against the clubs rather than the SFA if any test cases were posed.
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Jimmy, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame of the club in 2004 and is originally from Glasgow’s Bridgeton district, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease at the age of 78 in 2015.
According to his wife, he does not exhibit many physical symptoms yet, but has poor short-term memory.
We were on holiday talking about someone who had died at the hospital, and he turned to me, “We were on vacation and talking about someone who had died at the facility, and he turned to me, ‘Is he dead?” Mary said, and it was like a light bulb was going on.
“All the experiments were completed and that was it.
Fortunately, it was not a “boom” in Jimmy’s case, but a slow decline. Jimmy believes he doesn’t have dementia; he thinks he’s all right.
“He’s not on any medication, and I personally think that’s helped him. When I looked at all the side effects, I thought it was better to leave him as he is,” he said.
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He can’t recall what he did five minutes ago, but I took him to the Ibrox football memory project and showed him photographs and knew who everyone was.
“Of course, as time goes by, it gets worse. He’s good with his overall health, it’s all all in his brain. One day at a time, we’re just taking it.
Mary says that when a nursing home becomes unavoidable, she’s worried about the future and the financial strain that will fall on them.
A few days a week, Jimmy visits the Fred Paton Day Center run by the Golden Generation charity of Glasgow, from which they both benefit greatly, but Mary says there is a lack of social help for loved ones coping with a diagnosis of dementia. She would like to see the development of peer support groups.
She said, “A support network specifically for dementia caregivers needs to be in place.” For family caregivers, there are classes, but it’s not the same.