Agent wants to give other sufferers the belief to make recovery

DARREN JACKSON knows his own experience makes him the footballer perfectly fitted to perform the role of ambassador for CPISRA European Championships.

The event, to be hosted by the Scottish Football Association at the Toryglen complex in late August, is open to those who have suffered cerebral palsy, a stroke or a brain injury. Jackson, of course, fits into the last-named category, the striker making a remarkably speedy recovery after being diagnosed with hydrocephalus only a couple of months on from joining Celtic in the summer of 1997.

His brief for the SFA now is to encourage players to come for trials for CP Scotland by impressing that those who have suffered brain injuries can "get on with life, play football again, speak to people (who have gone through the same] and get things off your chest, and pull on a Scotland jersey and for their country in a championships." As he did his bit for a worthy cause at Hampden, the enviously well-preserved 43-year-old agent Jackson was living proof of his very words. Little over eight months after he had a operation that involved drilling a hole and lasering valves in his brain to alleviate what is known as water on the brain, the forward was lining up for Scotland against Brazil in the France '98 World Cup finals opener.

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"I know I was very, very lucky. I had brilliant people at Celtic, and footballers get medical attention quicker than other people, with the way the profession is."

Yet, initially, Jackson was told he would never play again. Within 24 hours, after the surgeon involved had taken further soundings, he revised that opinion. Once the operation had ben performed, then Celtic general manager Jock Brown asked the surgeon if Jackson were his own son would he let him play again. "He said 100 per cent yes," said the player-turned-player-representative. "If it had been 60 per cent, I'd have played again. Everything went fantastically well. One check-up and I was ready to come back. In my first training session after doing some running, I was asked to join in a game, a ball was crossed over, and I headed it in. It was amazing. There was no fear from me at all. My first game back was against Rangers, when Alan Stubbs scored a last-minute equaliser (in November 1997]. I thought I would never play again, and there I was coming on in front of 60,000 cheering fans. Incredible."