Spoiler: The following article is not about Scoliosis or anyone affected by the condition. It is, however, an article about strength, determination, and having the courage to overcome all odds. This is an article, I hope, we can all relate to with our own personal struggles and one that can provide an inspiration to follow.
This is an article about a man called Eddie Wolecki Black and his journey back to the top of his sporting profession following a stroke in 2016. For reference, Eddie Wolecki Black is a Scottish football manager, best known for his time in charge of Glasgow City, Scotland’s leading women’s football team, whom he led to four successive trebles between 2012 and 2015[i].
After four hugely successful seasons as manager of Scottish Women’s football side Glasgow City, Eddie Wolecki Black quit his position in July 2015 in search of a new challenge. His achievements in the women’s game had not unnoticed by chairmen of clubs in the men’s game and it was not long before Wolecki Black was given the opportunity to manage Scottish League One side Airdrie, taking up the reigns in December 2015 after a short spell as Head of Youth Academy Coaching at the club.
Wolecki Black was charged with turning around the fortunes of the North Lanarkshire based club with an initial aim of winning promotion to the Scottish Championship. Diligently, Wolecki Black set to work and began to stabilise the club, slowly molding the team into one capable of matching his ambitions.
However, on the afternoon of 5th March 2016 Wolecki Black’s life was turned upside down, and building a successful football team was no longer the biggest challenge in his life.
On that fateful afternoon, Wolecki Black watched from the sidelines at Cowdenbeath’s tiny Station Park stadium as his team took an early lead which they held until the interval. In the dressing room at half-time, while delivering his team talk, Wolecki Black fell ill and did not re-emerge after the break with his players for the second half.
Instead, he remained in the dressing room receiving medical attention for what later transpired to be a stroke, before being transferred to Edinburgh’s Western General Hospital for specialist treatment. Naturally, as the news broke, Scottish football was stunned to hear of Wolecki Black’s condition and messages of support poured in from all over the country, and beyond.
However, the full extent of his stroke was not made public at the time as privately, Eddie’s wife had been advised that the next 48-hours would be critical to her husband’s chances of survival. She had also been warned that should he pull through, there was a high risk that Eddie would not be able to walk or talk again.
In the space of just a few short hours on a regular Saturday afternoon, Eddie Wolecki Black had gone from doing the job he loved, to fighting for his life.
Thankfully, like all true Scotsmen, Eddie is made of strong stuff – not titanium, like some of us – and was not ready to give up his fight so easily.
In a recent interview with the BBC, Eddie commented that he was “determined to prove people wrong” after doctors had told his wife that he probably only had 48 hours (to live) and that even if he did pull through, he most likely wouldn’t walk or talk again. Proudly, he went on to say “here I am standing here. You saw me walk in here and I’m talking to you now. With a bit of determination in life, it’s amazing how far you can go.”
True to form, he showed great courage to battle his way back to health and fitness, to the point where, in November2017, he was remarkably able to return to a coaching and management position with Motherwell Ladies FC.
Less than one year after his appointment at Motherwell, Wolecki Black is set to continue his winning ways by delivering the Scottish Women’s Premier League 2 title as a parting gift before embarking on the biggest challenge of his football management career in the summer when he officially takes on the role of Head Coach of Celtic’s Women’s team.
His task at Celtic is to build a team capable of challenging the dominance of his former club, Glasgow City, and to establish Celtic’s Women’s team as the number one club in the game, just like the men’s team.
It’s a tough task, but given the challenges he has already overcome in his private life, if there’s one man who can do it, it is Eddie Wolecki Black.
As the man said – “With a bit of determination in life, it’s amazing how far you can go.”
I think that is a lesson we can all learn from.
All the best Eddie!
[i] The treble consists of winning the Scottish Women’s Premier, Premier League Cup, and Scottish Cup in the same season. Wolecki Black and his Glasgow City team achieved this incredible feat and unprecedented four times in a row.