Footlights to floodlights: football coach's remarkable journey

Shaun Malone once dreamed of becoming a star on London’s West End stage but after a brush with death his goal is to be a full-time coach at Manchester United’s Foundation.

Malone, when just 15 years old, was struck down with a bout of sinusitis that spread to his brain and he had to undergo emergency surgery that lasted for six hours. He was given just a 10 percent chance of survival.

The passionate Manchester United fan, who performed on stage in hit play “Billy Elliot” and recalls playing football while others did their singing exercises, was in a coma for two weeks and needed several subsequent operations.

Now 22, he told his life changed when the physiotherapist responsible for his rehabilitation — he had to learn to walk again — pointed him in the direction of the Ability Counts programme at United’s Foundation.

Ability Counts offers people with disabilities the opportunity to play or coach with the Premier League club.

“There was a coach there and he had terrible cerebral palsy and I was seeing that and I was like ‘well, that’s something I can do’,” said Malone.

“Someone else has got an issue, a disability, so I thought ‘well, he’s been a success, I can do that, that’s something that I’m interested in, something that I’d like to do’.

“And from that I’ve decided I thought I’m going to be a football coach and I started to like it.”

Malone first began coaching the under-16s and then moved up to the adults’ side, where, he joked, he can boss around some of those who used to order him about, but he does not want to stop there.

“I set myself goals,” he said. “Recently my goal was to get more coaching qualifications.

“Even outside of football, I’ve just done my driving test and got myself a car, that was two of those goals.

“Now my next goal is to get further qualifications and my main goal is to be a full-time member of staff at United (Foundation).”