Today marks the fifth anniversary of Dan Wilkinson’s passing and the traumatic events of Monday 12th September 2016.
Dan collapsed whilst playing for Barnsley-based Shaw Lane AFC in the Integro League Cup tie at Brighouse Town.
The tragedy sent shockwaves throughout the football community.
His passing from an underlying heart condition called Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Cardiomyopathy has never been forgotten and his legacy lives on through the Daniel Wilkinson Foundation run by his parents Barry and Gill.
The Foundation raise awareness of Cardiac Risk in the Young and to provide funding for heart screening, defibrillators and CPR/defibrillators training for grassroots sporting teams.
We spoke to former Shaw Lane manager Craig Elliott several days ago and he shared his memories of Dan and the tragic night and how it galvanised his team to win the NPL Division One South title in his memory.
You can read his interview HERE.
We have also spoken to Lee Ashforth who was the Brighouse assistant manager on the night and who was affected by what he saw.
“I had only joined Brighouse four days earlier after (ex-Brighouse Town manager Paul Quinn) Quinny brought me in and it was my second game with the club and my first home game.
“I remember been in the dugout and I remember Dan on the 18-yard-line.
“I saw him go down and straightaway our physio and the Shaw Lane physio ran on.
“Quinny was brilliant as well and he went on as well (to help with the CPR) and I just remember going onto the pitch to say to the referee that we needed to get the players off.
“He said ‘that’s fine, I’m not comfortable blowing the whistle, will you get them off’.
“I told all our lads to get into the changing room and they did.
“I remember it been eerie quiet.
“There was 200 people there and you could have heard a pin drop.
“It was really tough.
“After the game when Paul Quinn had already left, myself and (fellow assistant manager) Mark Booth said that we needed to get to the hospital.
“We went and as we went in so was Paul Quinn.
“There was all three of us and we told the hospital that we were there to see Dan Wilkinson.
“The doctor came to us and said ‘unfortunately Dan has passed away’.
“That was the first official confirmation and we were shown into a room where all the Shaw Lane players were.
“They were all in their kits and I knew Joe Thornton who I had played with at Ossett Albion so I went and chatted with him.
“The room was quiet and it was eerie – nobody really said much.
“We had been there half-an-hour when his parents came in and I just remember his dad speaking and he said ‘I can’t thank you all enough for being here’.
“It was emotional as you could get.
“I remember going home and going upstairs to keep my lad a cuddle.
“I think it was 2am in the morning and I just pulled him out of bed.
“The next week was an unbelievable experience.
“I went to work the morning after and I was working in a school and I thought I’d be alright.
“As soon as I pulled up at the school I knew I couldn’t do it.
“I went in and spoke to the headteacher and he said straightaway ‘don’t worry, I’ve seen it on the news, just go home’.
“I got some flowers on the way and I drove straight to Brighouse’s ground and I stayed there the whole day.
“I remember Ryan Qualter coming down and there were people coming down all day.
“It was a really tough day.
“As Craig said in his interview it made you think about whether you wanted to carry on in football as there’s more important things in life.
“I told people at the time that I’d always wanted to be a football manager from mid-20s.
“I used to play Football Manager and you dealt with press to budgets to contracts but never once did I play that game and I had to deal with player passing away on the pitch.
“You couldn’t have prepared yourself for it.
“Over the following weeks we made bonds with people that will never break – Craig Elliott and John Reid in particular.
“Our next game was postponed and as a management team and players we just didn’t want to go back onto the pitch where it had happened.
“Our next game was a home game and there was still flowers on the pitch and players didn’t want to play.
“Some players took it hard.
“In the back of your mind all your thoughts were with Dan and his family.
“Football didn’t matter and we were 100% adamant that we were going to the Shaw Lane game against Romulus.
“We travelled together and got there at the same time and they opened up the main gate at Shaw Lane and as we walked up we got an unbelievable round of applause.
“It was a bit surreal.
“You were itching for Shaw Lane to win that game.
“I’m not just saying this for the interview, you think about Dan all the time.
“I think about him every season, I think about him every-time I go to Brighouse’s ground.
“Christian Eriksen collapsed at the Euros and I was sat at home watching the game and I had a friend round.
“I started crying and everything was coming back.
“Even though it was five years ago it only feels like two minutes ago.
“Every year when the anniversary comes around you see on social media that everybody who was involved puts on that they remember it like was yesterday.
“I dropped Quinny a message on the night Eriksen collapsed and I said it had brought back painful memories.
“He sent the same back and the memory will never go away.”