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Referee Gary set for emotional return in cup final match after cancer treatment

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Hordle referee Gary Parsons in action (picture: Robin Jones/Digital South)
Hordle referee Gary Parsons in action (picture: Robin Jones/Digital South)

LOCAL referee Gary Parsons is anticipating an emotional return when he takes charge of his first game since being diagnosed with cancer.

Gary, who lives in Hordle, will be in the middle for the Russell-Cotes Cup final between Lymington Town and Sholing on Tuesday, writes Neil Perrett.

He was appointed by the Hampshire Football Association in February, three months before discovering he had cancer of the bowel and lymph nodes.

Gary had his fourth course of chemotherapy on Monday and fully expects to shake off the after-effects in time to officiate the big match at Sholing’s Universal Stadium.

He is a level one referee and is also qualified to take charge of games in the EFL, National League and Premier League 2.

Gary has temporarily put his refereeing career on hold while he undergoes treatment and is also signed off from his job as a transport manager for NMS which is based in Caird Avenue, New Milton.

Among the crowd at Sholing will be Gary’s wife Louisa, sons Gary Junior, 16, and 13-year-old Finn together with his father Gary Senior and several members of the local refereeing fraternity.

Gary told the A&T: “I’ll be ready but I know it will be an emotional evening. It’s brilliant to be given this opportunity with the help of the Hampshire FA.

“I’m still not sure whether I will get back to refereeing at the same level. I don’t know whether my body will allow it or if I’ll be fit enough.

“I was appointed in February before lockdown. The Hampshire FA have been in contact to ask how I am and have fitted in the game with my good week.

“It’s going to be great to have the chance to do a game and to enjoy it at a time when we don’t know what the future holds.”

Gary, who also manages Hordle Spurs U16s, last took charge of a game in March when he was in the middle for Dover’s 1-1 draw with Chesterfield in the National League.

Explaining how his diagnoses came about, Gary said: “I’ve been giving blood for 10 years and, the last time I went, they wouldn’t take it because they said my levels were wrong.

“As I’d never had a problem before, I went to see my doctor and he ran an MOT on me. Nothing drastic showed up but, to put my mind at rest, he suggested a camera because my iron levels were down.

“I had a colonoscopy in May and it showed a stage four tumour in my right bowel. Further tests showed it was cancerous.

“They operated to remove the right side of my bowel along with my appendix and the lymph nodes. They managed to join it back up so I don’t need a bag.

“More tests were carried out and it turned out I had cancer in the lymph nodes as well, which is why I’m having chemotherapy.

“I had my fourth course on Monday and, fingers crossed, I am having the last course just after Christmas.

“It was a huge shock for me and the family. Everybody kept telling me I didn’t tick any of the boxes, I was a fit and active guy and everything would be okay.

“As if Covid wasn’t enough to make you realise how things can change. My life is on hold. I’m not working, there is no football and it’s a waiting game.”

To donate to Bowel Cancer UK go to bit.ly/3nV4oAG

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