Rising football superstar

21st July 2018

Declan Payne contracted meningitis in 2010 when he was two years old. He lost the ability to walk and talk and had to relearn how to do everything


Declan recovered and underwent intense physical therapy to regain his strength, and through his recovery he developed a love for football. Now, eight years on, he’s been scouted by a top football academy and is proving to the world that meningitis doesn’t have to stop you living your dreams.

Declan started playing football aged four, when he joined his local club Bishops Lydeard AFC. During his time there, Declan only ever missed two training sessions and one match due to a sickness bug. 

Dad Richard noticed Declan’s talent when playing in the garden from a young age, but it wasn’t until 18 months ago when a scout from Saints Southwest and Southampton approached his school teacher Mr Duncan during a school tournament, that Declan’s talent was really discovered.

Declan was invited to a trial and got a place in the Saints South West and Southampton Development Centre at Taunton, Somerset.

Since then, Declan has progressed further to his current position in the Under 11’s Junior Premier League regional squad for Southampton.

Richard said, “He has never really done much else other than be in the garden rain or shine, kicking a ball. We have lost countless rent deposits due to the condition of the back lawn – fingers crossed though, it will have been worth it!”

Declan has come a long way since the days of his rehabilitation, where he learned how to walk and talk again.

Richard continued, “He has amazed me on a daily basis. I often come home from his football matches and say to my wife, "Crikey, he’s good you know!""

“We are bursting with pride, naturally, but he works really hard - his coaches have told us that his attention and commitment at training is second to none.”

Declan’s place in the junior premier league is a big step up in his schedule, as he trains twice a week with matches on Saturdays.

His coaches have been really impressed with his dedication, saying, “To hear that Declan faced and overcame many health struggles at such a young age speaks volumes for the character that he possesses.”

“Declan has had a fantastic attitude towards training during his time at the Development Centre and his work ethic and desire to improve has meant he is a joy to work with.”

“He really is a delight to train, and we look forward to helping him on his journey as a footballer and as a person.” 

Declan’s family have been supporting Meningitis Now since 2010, raising awareness of the disease and funds to help us continue our life-changing work. Richard has also recently added our logo to marketing materials of his business Baker Payne Property LTD, helping to extend reach even further.

Summing up Declan’s experience and talent, Richard said, “His achievements baffle me, and I have a tear every time I think about it.”

“The fact that he still cannot ride a bike due to lack of muscle tone in his legs, but he can do what he does on a football pitch, is nothing short of incredible!”

“What an achievement for a little boy who we were inches from losing, and one whose battle back to fitness has got him so far. We couldn’t be prouder.”

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