Family illness gives cup clash greater meaning for Hartlepool boss Graeme Lee | Sunday Observer

Family illness gives cup clash greater meaning for Hartlepool boss Graeme Lee

11 September, 2022

Graeme Lee will soak up every moment of the biggest game of his fledgling managerial career to date fortified by the bravery of his wife and father.

The 43-year-old Hartlepool manager will send the Sky Bet League Two side into FA Cup fourth-round battle with Premier League Crystal Palace on Saturday as his wife Gemma continues to defy an inoperable brain tumour with the help of a £5,000-a-month trial medication from Germany while his father Tony is living with dementia.

Asked if those off-field challenges made occasions like Saturday’s all the more special, Lee, who was appointed in December, said: “Yes, definitely.

“Just for the family, it gives us something different. I spoke to my wife about going for the job when I had the chance here to take the job, and she said, ‘Go get it, go do it. This family needs it’, and that’s what it means.

“It’s massive for us. We have gone through tough times – we still are, it’s not over – but it gives us something different to focus on and that’s what I’m doing.”

Gemma, described by her husband in a BBC Sport interview as “an absolute warrior”, was given just 12 months to live in 2019 but is working to raise awareness and funds.

The 41-year-old mother of two is planning to travel to south London on Saturday as 4,700 fans of the club where her husband launched his playing career decamp to see Pool attempt to reach the fifth round of the competition for the first time.

The previous evening, north-east neighbours Middlesbrough will run out in front of 9,500 travelling fans at Manchester United, three of whom will walk the 106 miles from the Riverside Stadium to Old Trafford to raise money to help the MFC Foundation create a Dementia Hub on Teesside.

Former Sheffield Wednesday, Doncaster, Bradford and Notts County defender Lee, whose father is a respected former Northern League manager, said: “My dad is struggling with dementia at the moment. It’s a massive cause, a massive thing for any awareness for anyone’s charity or illness, it’s massively appreciated.

“I know for for my wife and my dad at the moment, anything anyone is willing to do and step up…

“I’ve had so many people since my wife (was diagnosed) step up, people who you don’t even know who come forward and help and want to help, and they don’t realise how much that helps families and people who are suffering, so anything like that, well played to them and fantastic.”