STEVE COTTERILL has urged fans to help each other boot the worst of Covid-19 out of our lives once and for all.
The Shrewsbury manager likened his own harrowing experience with the deadly virus as having a go on every ride in a fairground.
And after being lucky to live to tell the tale, Cotterill – who will manage his side at home to Burton today – wants fans to consider two important things as they return to matches this season after almost 18 months locked out.
- Show kindness and respect to one another inside and outside stadiums, whether it be by keeping socially distanced or wearing face coverings where possible, to help keep a lid on the disease
- Get vaccinated to help not only protect themselves but their fellow supporters who may be more vulnerable if they catch the virus.
Cotterill, 57, spent 33 days in hospital, including a spell in intensive care, after contracting the killer bug in January.
And the former Burnley boss was readmitted for another 16 days after his condition worsened in March.
He told SunSport: “I had a tube inserted just under my bicep, directly down to my heart.
“It ended up puncturing my lung. Imagine trying to blow a balloon up after you’ve put a pin prick into the neck of it. It doesn’t matter how good you are, you’re not going to blow that balloon up because the wind is escaping all the time.
“So when oxygen was pumped into me, it was actually coming back out into my body, which gave me emphysema – causing shortness of breath.
“The air was in between the layers of my skin, which had a choking effect that made things even more difficult.
“I remember one night being really poorly. I was staying up longer because I didn’t want to sleep as I wasn’t sure if I’d wake up again.
“Eventually I slept but woke at 4am. Normally, when you wake that early, it’s the end of the world because you want to stay asleep.
“Yet that morning I couldn’t have been more delighted because I was still alive and thought, ‘Maybe I’m going to be all right after all.’
“But I remember there was a day I had a lot of chest pains about 2am and they came out and did an ECG on me there and then.
“If the Bristol Royal Infirmary was a fairground, I remember having a go on every ride going that day. I was here, there and everywhere – there were X-rays, scans, echocardiograms, the lot.
“When you’re in intensive care, you’re so unwell, you just leave it to the brilliant doctors and nurses. My specialist Dr Katrina Curtis and all the staff there, I’ll always be thankful for how they looked after me.”
The government has been in discussion with the EFL and Premier League about a much-debated and controversial vaccine passport scheme – where fans will only be allowed into stadiums if they have been double jabbed.
Regardless of that outcome, many clubs will still encourage fans, where possible, to social distance and continue to wear facial coverings.
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Stadium capacity will be down to each club’s local authority – assessed on safety and the Covid situation in the area at any given time.
And Cotterill said: “Now the government has relaxed rules, someone will wear a mask in a supermarket, while another person won’t.
“Already you’re seeing someone queuing, who isn’t wearing one, coughing and spluttering.
“Then all of a sudden someone will be giving them a funny look and that escalates into an argument.
“That’s not what we want in stadiums.
“It would be great if we could get back to full capacity but must bear in mind that the situation with this virus can change at any moment.
“So if we can’t – or at a later date must restrict numbers – it’s important fans respect social distancing and whatever rules are laid down by the authorities at the time.
I remember one night being really poorly. I was staying up longer because I didn’t want to sleep as I wasn’t sure if I’d wake up again.
“It doesn’t matter how crazy we all are about our teams, the most important thing is our health.
“If you haven’t got your health, it doesn’t matter how much you love your club because you’re not going to be watching them.
“So everyone has to be safe and respectful to the man, woman or child sat next to them – or the older lady sat two seats away.
“If we can all look after each other during this time – because it won’t be forever – we can get the best of both worlds, stay healthy and get to watch football.”
More than 38 million people have been fully vaccinated – which is almost 60 per cent of the population.
The government has already announced that partying Brits will need a vaccine passport from the end of September with fears that there are still many youngsters who have not been jabbed.
Cotterill said: “I think the younger age group have been really good. When you look at it, we have had 87 per cent of people who’ve been jabbed in our country. So there are 13 per cent that are left and that might be some of the younger age group.
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“The younger ones still want to go out night-clubbing and be here, there and everywhere. So my advice to them would be, ‘Having the jab is a good thing otherwise you’re not going to enjoy your lives like you did a year or two ago.’
“Yes, it’s true the vaccination can make you poorly for a day or two – but, trust me, it’s nothing like the real thing.
“There are a lot of people who’ve caught Covid only had symptoms for a few days or none at all – but it’s only when it grabs hold of you, like it did with me, that you’re a lot more passionate about things.
“I’m not telling people they must get it done but I’ll certainly try to persuade people why they should get it done.”