Calls have been made for more medical provision to be provided at all levels of football following the sudden and tragic death of a non-league player.
Daniel Wilkinson, 26, died after collapsing on the pitch following a heart attack while playing for Shaw Lane in a cup game last Monday. Despite being treated on the pitch, including with a defibrillator, he died in hospital.
Now Blyth Spartans defender Gavin Caines has called for more defibrillators and medical equipment to be made available in all levels of football.
Gavin, who played alongside Daniel at Rushall Olympic last season, said: “When I was doing my coaching badges, we did a lot of first aid.
“From then, when I heard about some of the things that happen – even at youth level – I do think there needs to be a lot more defibrillators and other medical equipment around the grounds for those instances.
“It doesn’t matter what level you play at, be it Premier League or Sunday league, everyone’s life matters. So, the more defibrillators we can get and the more medical equipment available around the grounds for use when it’s needed, the better really.”
The 32-year-old was left in “total shock” after learning of the death of his friend the following morning.
He said: “It came as a massive shock. He’s a young lad, only 26, and he’s just finished university.
“The first I’d heard of something happening was on the night time, when a couple of the old Rushall lads said that he’d collapsed during the game.
“Waking up the next day, I’d not even heard anything until my best mate, who also played for Rushall, phoned me at 10am to let me know the news. I just remember being in total shock.
“I just feel so sorry for his family and his close friends.”
With the pair turning out for Evo-Stik Premier League side Rushall last season, Caines got to know Wilkinson very well and the Mansfield-born centre-back had nothing but praise for his fellow defender.
Gavin added: “Dan was a genuinely good guy. You hear that quite a lot of times, but he was one of those lads who really was a nice lad and he didn’t have a bad word to say about anybody.
“You could go to everyone who he’s ever played with and all of his ex-team members and I reckon they’d all say the same thing. I’ve not got a bad word to say about him either and it’s just utterly devastating.
“For something like that to happen to someone so young and it be totally unexpected, it’s heartbreaking. I’m devastated personally, but I can’t begin to think how his family must be feeling.
“It’s just really really sad.”
A JustGiving page has already been set up for The Daniel Wilkinson Foundation – www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/danwilkinsonfoundation – which has been created to raise money and awareness of the inherited heart condition Arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC).
They have set themselves a target of £50,000 and have already raised £1,500 within a week.
In a statement on the donation website, the foundation said: “The Daniel Wilkinson Foundation has been set up to raise funds that will ultimately, save lives.
“By donating to this foundation, and with the support of the FA and county FAs, every penny raised will go towards providing screenings for all footballers at grassroots level. [It will also] assist clubs in purchasing defibrillators and provide training in CPR.
“We must ensure that Daniel’s death is not in vain and that no more young footballers lose their lives.”