By Dan Coles and Will Lailey
A promising teen footballer who had academy trials but had to stop due to a leg amputation is back on the pitch after two years on the side line.
Lewis Aldersley, 17, was showing all the signs of any soon-to-be pro footballer in secondary school as his school team’s star player and was in line to go through regional academy trials to take his career pro.
But in July 2017, he was devastated when he was diagnosed with bone cancer and doctors advised for him to have his leg amputated above the knee – saving his life but ruining his career before it had even begun.
The brave teen, from Coventry, West Mids, hasn’t let his amputation stop him from pursuing his football, and he now plays for West Bromwich Albion’s amputee team, whizzing around the pitch on his crutches once a week.
Lewis said: “I loved football and played for a Sunday league team – I was told if I carried on the way I was playing I could go pro and I was just about to play games with scouts attending. I was so excited.
“When I was diagnosed with bone cancer my world came crumbling down.
“The chemotherapy wasn’t working; it was making my tumour grow larger, so they were going to need to amputate my leg and that’s when I knew my football career was going to end.
“It was a hard decision; I had always wanted to either be a footballer or join the army and suddenly I couldn’t do either.
“I was heartbroken at the thought of not being able to play sports, but at the end of the day it was stop playing sports and live or try to save my leg and die.
“Spending a year in hospital and coming out on one leg was a huge adjustment but I’m just so glad I can still play ball.
“I’m so grateful that I found the amputee football league.
“The support there is priceless, I have met people who have gone through what I have gone through, so we have this united feeling of surviving what life has thrown at us which brings us together every week.
“I met a guy there and we are good friends now, he has a leg amputation on the other side so we buy a pair of boots and keep one each, so at least I’m saving a bit of money on boots.”
Lewis had been suffering leg pain on and off for a couple of years until in 2017 when his knee locked into place and he fell down some stairs.
Marie, his mum, took hm to the doctor who after seeing he had been struggling with his leg for years, decided to give him an MRI, which showed a tumour in his knee.
Marie said: “One of the doctors at my GP told me he would need his leg to be amputated and my heart sank.
“We had three options, one of them was to operate on the knee and try to remove the cancer, another was to remove from below the knee, or we could remove from above the knee and removing from above the knee was the safest choice.”
Five months later, in November 2017, Lewis’s leg was amputated and he is now in remission after being released to go home
Lewis said: “I was not scared or upset, I just couldn’t believe it was happening to me and I couldn’t bare the idea of not being there for my mum.
“Almost a year later, after my leg had been removed and my chemotherapy was finished, I went to an amputee football camp with England and I loved it, it was the first time I had kicked a ball in over a year.
“The head coach put me in touch with West Brom’s coach and told me to go down, little did I know when I got there they were going to throw a jersey at me and get me in the team.”
Lewis credits the football team for revitalising his love for life and reassuring him that he can still be the active teen he was before his diagnosis.
“Being able to play football again makes me so happy, it’s one of a mixture of things I realised that I could still do.
“Walking out and seeing my grandparents and mum on the side-line watching me has changed my life, my positivity about life is sky-rocketing every time I hit the ball.
Lewis added: “Joining the lads once a week really helps keep me going, we all have been through the same sorts of things and that connect us in a way that I can’t connect with others.
“It’s been a really difficult couple of years, but I finally feel like I’m back to my old self and I’m excited about the future.”
Lewis’s coach, Harry Smith, said: “Lewis was a part of this team before me but what I’ve seen from him in the last year has been amazing.
“He’s like a sponge, he absorbs what he’s told and remembers it, his movement is exceptional, and he’s picked it all up so quick.
“The biggest thing Lewis has is his confidence on the ball, the way he moves is very fluid, he knows where to pick the pass, where to dribble and when to shoot – which is all you need in football.”