Northampton Cobblers memorabilia plea for ex-player with dementia

image copyrightNorthampton Town FC
image captionTony Claypole grew up in Weldon and joined Northampton Town as a junior in 1953

The family of an ex-footballer with dementia have received "priceless" photos of his playing days following a plea to help create a memory book.

Full back Tony Claypole, 83, made more than 125 appearances for Northampton Town until a broken leg ended his professional career in 1962.

His daughter-in-law Jo Claypole said he remembered his time as a player but would often not recognise his wife.

"The kindness of strangers has been amazing," she said.

'Eyes light up'

image copyrightSupplied by family
image captionThe family had only a handful of photos and now have a growing collection, including this one of Tony in the Cobblers' number 2 shirt against Gillingham in September 1960

Claypole has vascular dementia and Alzheimer's and has deteriorated in the past six months, which prompted Ms Claypole to search for matchday programmes, photos and other memorabilia.

"He is such a modest man, but when we talk about football, you see his eyes light up," she said.

With just a handful of photos in the family, Mrs Claypole has tried to piece together a life in football, from playing for England in a schoolboy international on his 17th birthday in 1954, to hanging up his boots aged 68 in 2005.

He had continued as a semi-professional after he was released by the Cobblers and is now cared for by his wife at their home in Cornwall.

'Very supportive'

"It's restored my faith in human nature," she said of her appeal, adding that Ethan Grande, the Cobblers' historian, had been a huge help.

"I think it was an ex-journalist who came forward this week with about 25 photos and press cuttings, and they are priceless because they are ones we have never seen before," she added.

"They include team photos but also some action shots of him playing, which we don't have."

image copyrightSupplied by Family/Northampton Chronicle and Echo
image captionTony Claypole, pictured centre with his Northampton team mates, loves reminiscing about his playing days

She is still on the search and is also keen for fans' memories, such as of Claypole's testimonial on 10 April 1962 and the game against Coventry in which he broke his leg.

The plan is to present the memory book to Claypole once lockdown is over, as his daughter-in-law lives more than 300 miles away in Hertfordshire.

Speaking of dementia in former players, she said campaigners and the Professional Footballers' Association had been "very supportive".

"It's everywhere, and it's the families of the lesser names that need the help, care and support," she added.

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