Moving tale of how Jacko gave a different meaning to giving something back

When footballers talk about 'giving something back', it is usually in the context of coaching, passing on the benefits of what they have learned on the field so that others might have a chance to live the life they have enjoyed.

For Peter Jackson, the phrase has a very different meaning.

For more than 30 years, Peter and his wife Alison lived the good life, riding the football roller coaster together during his career as player and manager.

As a player, he edged out Paul Gascoigne and Peter Beardsley when he was named Newcastle United's Player of the Year.  He went on to make more than 650 League appearances for five clubs.

As a manager, the sharp-suited 'Jacko' competed with Jose Mourinho in the touchline style stakes when Huddersfield Town played Chelsea in the FA Cup, savoured the highs of victory in a play-off final at the Millennium Stadium --  and endured the lows, three times suffering the occupational hazard of the sack.

But those dark days were as of nothing compared with the ordeal that began when he visited his doctor in the autumn of 2007, soon after taking over as manager of Lincoln City, concerned as to why a sore throat he thought was a consequence of quitting smoking just would not go away.

Referred to hospital for tests, Peter was ultimately diagnosed with throat cancer.  It was a chilling moment, both for Jackson and for his wife, Alison, who had developed her own business career while married to Peter, but as a former oncology nurse was only too aware of the devastating consequences of a cancer diagnosis. She put her career on hold to support his battle for health.

Happily, after undergoing radiotherapy, Peter was given the all-clear and continued his work at Lincoln until 2009.

But the brush with a life-threatening illness changed his outlook on life and his definition of putting something back. Nowadays, Peter and Alison devote their energies to caring for others -- the elderly, disabled and terminally ill -- through their business.  But Peter is much more than merely a silent partner; while Alison puts her business skills to good use as managing director, Peter has become a hands-on carer.

Now, Yorkshire journalist and author Andrew Collomosse has helped the couple tell their story in Living with Jacko, to be published in September by Great Northern Books.

It is the story of how Jackson's football career ran parallel with Alison's progress in the business world, but how all that went on hold after his cancer diagnosis.

It tells how Alison balanced the life of a footballer's wife with building her business but then switched her focus to nursing Peter back to health, detailing the family trauma in a heart-wrenching diary.

And it describes the story of how Peter moved from touchline to lifeline, providing hands-on home care in the couple's latest joint venture.

In a recent interview, Peter said: "We had a diary that Alison wrote when I was going through the cancer and we thought we might make a book out of it because it could be useful to somebody going through what we did.

"Then it became our life story. It’s not a sport book, it’s just a book about our life.

"I’m quite a private person myself but we’ve been really, brutally honest about what we’ve been through, which is a big decision to make.

"But we’ve had such an interesting life, and mixing that with the diary, it’s a book that people might want to pick up and read.

"We’ve had ups and downs as the book will tell you but to be still together after 32 years, and two wonderful kids, has been an incredible journey for two normal people."

Harry Redknapp, currently manager of Queen's Park Rangers and a fellow professional who has known Peter for nearly 40 years, provided a foreword in which he says: "You won't find too many former football managers working hands on as carers…but when I heard that's what Peter Jackson is doing, it didn't surprise me. He's a good sort."

Living with Jacko: From Touchline to Lifeline, by Alison and Peter Jackson (Great Northern Books)



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