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Horsfield helping the homeless

Geoff Horsfield is wearing scruffs, driving his van around Birmingham and, just as he did in his playing days, getting straight to the point.

From no-nonsense centre forward he now earns a living as maintenance man to homes housing dozens of residents from difficult backgrounds.

There are vulnerable adults, former homeless people and some with mental health issues, but Horsfield will be on call to unblock toilets or change lightbulbs, while always taking time for a cuppa and a chat.

It is not a typical post-playing career, but Horsfield, 43, a bricklayer before he cracked professional football, is in his element.

‘I did all my coaching under Micky Adams at Port Vale and became assistant manager but I fell out of love with it,’ he explains.

‘The aggression — that side I was known for — has come out of the game. I had a lot of contacts around the Sutton Coldfield area and started doing maintenance for them.

Then a friend put me in touch with Kathy McIlroy as she needed work doing in one of these houses where people had mental health issues.

‘Her husband said after two days, ‘No chance will he finish the week, an ex-footballer going into a house that’s so chaotic, with alcohol and drug misuse’. But I absolutely love the job.

‘I feel as I did three years ago. The job satisfaction — seeing these people happy — is tenfold to scoring at Villa Park. This can change their lives.’

Horsfield and McIlroy are now business partners, looking after 19 properties of between five and seven rooms in the Erdington area, owning some, renting or managing others.

As well as providing housing for people unable to live by themselves they also offer support, formal and informal, which is where the man who has a cult reputation at Birmingham City and West Bromwich Albion comes in.

Horsfield scored in two derby wins for Birmingham over Aston Villa and also on the final day of West Brom’s 2004-05 ‘great escape’ season which kept them in the Premier League, but now he is happy to go along with jokes at his expense.

‘They’ll say, “You can’t have played football, you’re too fat”. I say, “All right, leave it alone!” I like a laugh with the residents because sometimes they are really down. They have had s*** cards dealt to them and life is hard. I try to bring a bit of enjoyment.’

We are inside his company’s latest property in need of attention. The floorboards are bare but Horsfield, in his plain-speaking Yorkshire accent, insists his team will get it to the smartly finished spec of their others in three weeks.

‘Sometimes if we see someone on the streets we’ll ask if they need somewhere to stop,’ Horsfield adds. ‘But a lot don’t want the board, believe it or not. No rules, no bills is all they know.’

Those who do sign up use government housing benefits but Horsfield does not want them trapped in a cycle of dependence and tries to help them find jobs and their own accommodation.

That is why, seven months ago, he formed the Geoff Horsfield Foundation and is aiming to raise funds for courses and days out to aid wellbeing. He hosted a charity comedy night with Brummie comic Joe Lycett performing for free, and is organising a celebrity poker night with former Blues midfielder Paul Devlin and Troy Deeney, the Birmingham-born Watford striker, having agreed to take part.

‘Housing benefit can be stopped if some go on courses, so it becomes a revolving door,’ says Horsfield. ‘They can get in a bubble of depression. I’d like to take them to Blackpool or help out with a football course or cooking class. They are isolated. The Foundation is to try to break the cycle so they’re not stuck here for the next 10 years.

‘We help them get job interviews, and work towards having a “normal” life, where they earn their own money and get their own place.’

Horsfield is tremendous company, shirking no questions, and the warmth he shows to the residents is clearly not put on. His Barnsley upbringing can explain much of this, as does his brush with cancer in 2008, when he had a testicle removed.

‘I’ve looked at life a lot different to when I was 36 and had cancer,’ he says. ‘I was lucky. I got it early and I didn’t have to have any radio or chemo. I am all clear.’

Horsfield is used to fronting up. ‘When I played for Halifax in the Conference, no matter if I’d been sent off or scored a hat-trick, I always went in the bar with the fans because I’d want their opinion. I did that at Fulham too

At Fulham Horsfield was a main part of the club’s journey back from the depths scoring 15 goals from 28 games as Fulham won the Second Division title by 14 clear points. Another 14 goals in the First/Championship division made him Fulham’s top scorer for the 99/00 season. However the arrival of Jean Tigana and then Louis Saha led to Horsfield moving on to Birmingham.

Horsfield recovering from blood clot on his lungs

The Birmingham Mail carries a moving interview with former Fulham striker Geoff Horsfield, who is recovering after blood clots on his lungs left him close to death for a second time.

Horsfield, who has already fought a successful battle against cancer, was rushed for emergency hospital treatment last month after experiencing excruciating pain. Doctors discovered potentially life-threatening blood clots on both of his lungs – which they believe could have been caused by Horsfield’s habit of exercising on a treadmill. Horsfield, a father of four, admitted he had never felt any like the terrible pain that woke him up early in the morning last month:

I am very, very lucky. This came from nowhere. I’ve never known pain like it, and after what happened with the cancer I know I’ve had an escape again.

It was about 4am and I was crying my eyes out, I couldn’t breathe.  From my shoulder blades down to my backside, it was if there was someone stabbing me in the back. I told my missus, Tina, that I’d just take a couple of tablets and hopefully it would go away. But she could see I was in a state.

She called an ambulance and I was taken to Burton Hospital. They injected my leg with morphine on the way there and it was thought I may have cracked a rib and punctured my lung. I said “but how have I done that?”, though, and had a scan. When the results came back they told me they had good news and bad news: the good news was that I hadn’t broken any ribs, the bad news was that I had blood clots on my lungs.

I had several on my left hand side, several on the right, including a very big clot. I couldn’t believe it. And I wasn’t aware of how serious it might have been until the nurses told me that had circumstances been different, had the clots not gone to my lungs but straight to my heart, it would have been game over.
In the last two weeks I’ve had morphine, tramadol, codeine and paracetamol. I’ve lost one-and-a-half stone in weight and can’t do anything. I’m out of breath even if I go upstairs. The tablets have turned me into a zombie and I’ve not been able to sleep. But I am just so thankful that I was rushed in to hospital when I was and the treatment I received was first class, I can’t thank the consultants and nurses enough.
I know my own body, I know when I’ve had a pull when I’ve played football. I felt something but it didn’t hurt and I carried on. That’s when it started. Five to seven days later, I was taken to hospital. I’ve been told something like this is hereditary. When Tina [his wife] rang my mum to tell her what had happened she collapsed on the kitchen floor as my nan died 12 months to the day from a blood clot to the lung. So, so scary – I am just thankful I’m still here.
Horsfield, a firm crowd favourite at every club he played for due to his energy and work rate, signed for Fulham after then manager Kevin Keegan was impressed the former brick-layer’s start to professional football, scoring seven goals in his first ten Third Division appearances for Halifax, whom he had helped fire to the Football League. Horsfield, who joined Fulham for £300,000 in October 1998, had an immediate impact at Craven Cottage. He scored fifteen goals in 28 games as the Whites romped to the Second Divison title – and when Keegan took on the national team job, chants of ‘Horsfield for England’ could be heard from the terraces.
Having made the PFA’s Second Division Team of the Year, Horsfield’s physicality aided Fulham’s start to the First Division season under new manager Paul Bracewell. He scored twice at St. Andrew’s on the opening day of the season and was sent off for violent conduct and, although he was less prolific in front of goal at a higher level, Horsfield still finished the 1999-2000 season as Fulham’s top scorer with fourteen goals. Seven of those goals came in the League Cup – including a sublime strike in the third round win over Tottenham – as Fulham reached the quarter finals before losing on penalties at Leicester City.
Bracewell’s replacement Jean Tigana felt Horsfield was too one-dimensional to fit his more continental style and replaced the burly forward with Louis Saha. Horsfield joined Birmingham for a club record £2.25m, becoming the Blues’ top scorer in his first season at the club and he scored twice in the League Cup semi-final to fire Birmingham to a showpiece final against his boyhood club, Liverpool, which they lost after a penalty shoot-out. The following year, Horsfield was voted Birmingham’s player of the year after helping the club return to the top flight via the play-offs, scoring the equaliser against Norwich in the final.
Horsfield scored his first league goal in a famous derby win against local rivals Aston Villa and, in the return fixture, he ended up replacing the injured Nico Vaesen in goal after Blues’ had used all of their substitutes. Despite being used largely as a substitute by Steve Bruce, Horsfield’s partnership with French World Cup winner Christophe Dugary helped keep Birmingham up as the club managed four wins and a draw in the final five games.
After a brief spell at Wigan, Horsfield joined West Brom for £1m in December 2003. He enjoyed an excellent January, winning the First Division’s player of the month award, and his seven league goals were crucial in propelling Albion back to the top flight. Horsfield struggled to make much of an impact on his return to the Premier League, but he played a starring role in West Brom’s great escape on the final day of the season. He scored with his first touch as a substitute against Portsmouth and then made the winner for Kieran Richardson and described the day ‘as the best achievement of my career’. Horsfield also featured for Sheffield United, Leeds and Lincoln before becoming player-coach at Port Vale.
We wish Geoff all the very best in recovering from his illness.

Horsfield named as new Vale assistant

Micky Adams has named former Fulham striker Geoff Horsfield as his new assistant manager.

Horsfield will continue his playing career as well as acting as number two to Adams, who guided Fulham to promotion from Division Three.

I am looking forward to it, it is something I have always wanted to do. From turning 30 I have always wanted to come into the coaching side and Micky Adams has given me the chance to keep on playing. I want to play most of the games and Micky is going to teach me the ropes.

Like the fighter he is, Horsfield has made a remarkable recovery from testicular cancer and came out of retirement to play for Lincoln City last season.

The problems I have encountered over the last 12 months are now behind me. Getting cancer was something I had to get over. I got it, wanted to beat it and I did. Now I am just glad that I’ve got another chance in football.

I am going to learn a lot with Micky Adams. He has given me a leash to work with the strikers and do some scouting as well, but first and foremost I have got to get my fitness and my match fitness.

We wish ‘the Horse’ all the best.

Horse to fight cancer

Now for some sad news.

Our legendary former striker Geoff Horsfield has had to retire from the game in order to battle against testicular cancer.

Geoff will always be remembered for his whole-hearted performances in a Fulham shirt. Several stick in my mind from his hat-trick in an otherwise low-key League Cup game against Northampton, those brilliant showings in partnership with his slightly smaller strike partner Paul Peschisolido, his terrific leading of the line at Aston Villa in that brilliant FA Cup display at Villa Park, those two goals at Birmingham before his sending off in Paul Bracewell’s first game in charge and, of course, that sublime goal that made Sol Campbell look silly in our brilliant win over Spurs in the League Cup back in 2000.

Many of us were very surprised that one of Jean Tigana’s first acts upon taking over the reigns at Fulham was to sell the popular Horsfield, who had been a key part of the side that had stormed to the Second Division championship under Kevin Keegan a couple of years earlier. Having been released by Sheffield United, Geoff had been hoping to win a contact with Walsall this season but the discovery of his cancer put paid to that and he has started his battle against the disease.

As he said, he has always been a fighter and never was that more beautifully illustrated than in his performances in the black and white. I’m sure I speak for everyone here when I wish him all the best.

Good luck, Geoff.

Horsfield set for Baggies farewell

Former Fulham favourite Geoff Horsfield is expected to make his Hawthorns swansong tomorrow, with Bryan Robson admitting the striker’s future was out of Albion’s hands.

The 32-year-old will play in Albion’s clash at Fulham before completing a loan move to Sheffield United, for the remainder of this season, early next week.

Robson wants to keep the experienced marksman but the Barnsley-born striker is keen to return to South Yorkshire, having spent the last few years in the West Midlands.

He is also keen to play first team football, which may prove difficult at The Hawthorns when Kanu returns from African Nations Cup duty.

“We are still in the same position until after this weekend as regards what happens with Geoff,” said the Baggies boss. He has never had to persuade me (about staying) because I’ve always wanted to keep Geoff.

“Both he and Kevin Campbell have vast experience and with the work ethic and their strength, you know they are going to lead the line well and give players the chance to come up behind them and support them. “But what happens next is Geoff’s decision.”