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My Jimmy knew the game had a problem with dementia in the 1970s. It's a terrible illness and it was hard to watch it hit him too; FOOTBALL'S TIMEBOMB WIDOW'S AGONYTV pundit's wife backs plea for research.

Byline: Graeme Donohoe

The widow of Jimmy Hill has told how the ex-player and TV pundit was aware of the sport's links to brain damage in the 1970s.

Jimmy's wife Bryony revealed her late husband was in touch with a medical expert who was trying to raise concerns more than 40 years ago.

The Sunday Mail has backed families of former footballers affected by Alzheimer's in their demands for more research.

Fulham great Jimmy died aged 87 in 2015 after a seven-year fight with the disease.

PS1.70 February 26, 2017 FOOTBALL'S TIMEBOMB DEMENTIA our But Bryony - who was married to Jimmy for 24 years - fears football has ignored the problem for decades.

WINNER With the European Cup in '67 and, left, with Liz free razor and blades worth PS10 WWW.SUNDAYMAIL.CO.UK January 15, 2017 see PaGe26 The movies Scotland lost revealeD SundayMaiPS1.70 Hollywood looked elsewhere because we failed to build a studio, say industry bosses See paGeS 8&9 FOOTBALL'S TIMEBOMB HEADS IN THE SAND Expert says game turned blind eye to dementia account hope McNeills support Sunday Mail's fight for sufferers Legends of the game pay tribute to Lisbon Lions leader 50 years on 2 AND 3 PAGES 4 AND 5 PAGES 6 AND 7 associations will not pay for research similar to the type which has revolutionised rugby's approach to the issue - despite the game's huge wealth.

Dr Stewart's calls are today backed by the families of four legendary ex-players whose lives were blighted football's governing bodies have been accused of ignoring increasing evidence linking the national game to dementia.

A doctor who has led research into the link between heading footballs and the condition says the game's rulers have refused to spend the PS150,000 needed to fund more work.Dr Willie Stewart says leading | Graeme Donohoe authoritieS aCCuSeD of DeNYiNG CaSh for research aND faMilieS PaGes 4,5,6&7 VICTIMS From left, Mike sutton, Frank Kopel and ally Macleod turn to page 2 She said: "I met Jimmy when I was his secretary in the 70s. I remember him having correspondence from a doctor or professor who was trying to link boxers and footballers with dementia and mental problems.

"Even then it was a worry and being discussed.

"Jimmy kept up with quite a few friends from Fulham. I remember Beddy Jezzard had some form of dementia and Jimmy was very concerned.

"It's a very tricky thing but more research needs to be done so we can know whether it's a catalyst for causing the illness."

Beddy played for Fulham between 1948 and 1957 and managed the club from 1958 to 1964. He died aged 77 in 2005, years after his dementia diagnosis.

Bryony, 65, spoke movingly of Jimmy's battle with the devastating brain condition.

She said: "It's a terrible illness and awful for those watching their loved ones disappear before their eyes. Jimmy couldn't recognise me towards the end.

"But about 10 days before he died, he looked at me with tears in his eyes and held my hands as if he still realised who I was. It was as if he was saying goodbye."

Jimmy was influential in football scrapping the PS20-a-week salary cap in 1961 and pioneered bringing in three points for a win and shirt sponsorship. He riled the Tartan Army after he described David Narey's 1982 World Cup strike against Brazil as a "toe poke" - which spawned the fans' song We Hate Jimmy Hill.

But Bryony said: "It gave Jimmy a chuckle. He loved Scotland and always got a warm welcome."

She hopes the decision of Lisbon Lion legend Billy McNeill's family to go public about his dementia will help others to come forward.

Bryony said: "The first sign of a problem with Jimmy was memory loss. But he would brush it aside and carry on."

Authorities have been accused of ignoring links between heading a ball and dementia. Campaigners say they ignored a coroner ruling in 2002 that ex-England star Jeff Astle had died of "an industrial disease" after a five-year fight with dementia.

Bryony believes Jimmy would have backed the campaign for research.

She said: "When Jimmy was a player at Fulham, they used to soak that old leather ball the night before a home game to make it heavier.

"I don't know whether Jimmy's dementia stemmed from heading the ball or bumping into other players or whether it was just the luck of the draw.

"I guess we'll never know unless more research is done."


HEAD ON Jimmy and Fulham player Johnny Haynes in training

PIONEER Jimmy with Bryony in 2008 Pic Mike Moore
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Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Apr 16, 2017
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