Walking away from Griffin Park after his side’s late win over Nottingham Forest on November 21, Harlee Dean was angry and thinking about himself.The Brentford defender had been sent off and was going to be suspended for three games as a result.
Moments later, after stopping to pass the time of day with a couple of Brentford fans outside the Princess Royal pub on his way home, Dean heard a commotion and turned round to see eight-year-old Ted Starkey lying on the ground.
The young Brentford supporter had excitedly stepped into the road only to be struck by a car and flung 15ft on to the pavement.
Dean forgot his own troubles and sprinted back to the ground, first to the Forest coach to see if they had a doctor on board, then to the dressing room where Brentford club doctor Matt Stride was preparing to leave, his work done for the day.
Together the pair ran back to the incident. Stride took charge and made sure that Ted received the correct care until a nearby ambulance was able to take him to hospital.
Thankfully, the youngster has now recovered fully from his muscle and grazing injuries, while Dean and Stride have been named as joint winners of the Sky Bet Football League Unsung Hero award for November.
Dean said: “I was in the middle of standing by the pub just talking to a couple of the fans when there was a screech and then a bang, followed by the sound of the kid crying.
“I saw the child on the floor and immediately sprinted back to the ground. Forest hadn’t travelled with a doctor so I ran back to get Matt.
“I think it’s a bit embarrassing to be getting an award. Anyone would have done the same thing. I don’t see it as a big deal.
“I was fuming with myself for getting sent off, thinking about missing three games and then that happened and took my mind off everything. It made me realise that it’s just a game of football and there are far bigger things to worry about. I’m just glad the little boy’s alright.”
Stride, who has been attached to Brentford for seven years and is a Brentford fan, is more used to dealing with pulls and strains than road accident victims.
He said: “I deal more with football-related sporting injuries, but when you’re outside of your environment and comfort zone the training you’ve had allows you to have a calming approach to what was potentially a very serious incident.
“We supported the boy’s head, neck and spine before beginning the assessments. He was a great kid, very articulate and intelligent, and it's bordering on miraculous to fly 15ft, hit the pavement like that and be able to walk away afterwards.
“It’s definitely one of the more unusual situations I’ve been in. You can’t envisage yourself as a hero or a superhero. You turn up as a doctor and that’s your job.
“Harlee still doesn’t feel like he did anything but there were quite a few other passers-by who were in panic mode whereas Harlee had the nous to think: ‘There’s a doctor that I know and trust who is in close vicinity.’ He wasn’t to know that the boy didn’t have any very serious injuries.”
Thankfully, Ted’s injuries have now healed and the club has since treated him to two special days out. He had to be cut out of his new Brentford away kit and training top in hospital, but they have since been replaced by the club and presented to him on a visit to the club training ground.
His father Richard is full of praise for not only the actions of Dean and Stride, but the club as a whole.
He said: “The club has been amazing. There’s a real community feel about it and it’s been in our family for four generations. Ted’s been a season ticket holder for four years, so for him to get to meet his heroes at the training ground, watch training, be presented with a new shirt, have lunch with the players and be made a real fuss of is special. And none of it has been forced.
“After the last-minute winner, we were all a bit excited on the day it happened. And Ted had just managed to get a picture with Ryan Woods, one of his favourite players, 10 seconds before.
“He ran into the road. It happened in slow motion. I thought the car was going to stop, I was shouting but he went up on to the bonnet and was thrown 15ft onto the pavement on the other side.
“When it happened I was panicking. I stood over him but I knew I couldn’t move him. There was an off-duty doctor there and a couple of minutes later Matt Stride turned up.
“It didn’t even occur to me how he knew and I didn’t find out until a couple of days later that Harlee had legged it back to the dressing room. Harlee could just have ignored it and thought: ‘There’s an ambulance there, it will be dealt with,’ but he ran to get the doctor as his first instinct.
“Ted’s fine now. He’s back to playing football himself. The doctors said that because he didn’t see the car coming, he didn’t have time to tense up, so his muscles took the brunt of the impact.”
As a further gesture, Ted acted as the Brentford mascot at last Saturday’s derby draw at Fulham. Dean is proud of his club for their actions and attitude.
He added: “The Premier League is a lot more in a bubble than we are here. Brentford is a family club. That is bred through into the changing room. I’ve been here a long time now. When it’s one of your own supporters I think you do care a bit more, although you’d do the same thing for an away supporter. It’s just a natural instinct.
“It’s nice what the club has done for the kid. That’s the way I’ve always known this club and hopefully it’s the way it stays.”