Not many fit the 'One Of Our Own' description better than Head Physio, Craig Sedgwick. 'Sedg' is next up in our feature that shines a light on those working behind the scenes...
Tell us how you got into physiotherapy. Weren’t you originally a player in the academy system at the club?
I started playing for Barnsley when I was 14-years-old and was offered a scholarship at 16. I spent the next three years trying hard to get a professional contract. Professional players that had a career from my youth team included Neil Austin, Anthony Kay, Jon Parkin, David Mulligan, Rory Fallon and Carl Barrowclough to name a few. I just wasn’t good enough and ended up on loan at Emley. It was here, on a dark, cold midweek training night at Emley top, I was deeply contemplating my career. I was getting booted up and down by their senior pros, followed by another hour of defending headers with old Mitre Delta balls, so I decided I would follow my second dream of physiotherapy.
I spoke to Pat Lally at the PFA and I had one problem - I needed another A-level to get into university. The football club had put me through a B-Tec National Diploma in Sports Science. I am so grateful for this and the fact I had concentrated on my work outside football. Tony Warden, the education welfare officer helped me get onto an A-level human biology course at Barnsley College. I thank him a lot for all he has done for me over the years.
After a year of working part time as a window cleaner and a volunteer at Mount Vernon hospital in the dementia and elderly rehab unit, I was accepted on the BSc physiotherapy course at the University of Salford. I had four years of hard study, which included 1,000 hours working on placements. I am not going to lie, there were times I could have just walked away and done something else.
For my last placement I was allowed to choose where I wanted to work. I knew already where I wanted to be. I spoke to Dave Hancock who was the Academy operations manager and Ronnie Branson and they said, if I can convince the physiotherapists, Matt Konapinski and Richard Kay to give me chance they were okay with this.
From here I worked my standard hours as a student, worked extra hours volunteering with the first team at the weekends and most nights in the academy. I fell in love. I wanted to be back at this club doing sports physiotherapy. After the summer and after I had qualified as a physiotherapist, I was given a full time job within the Academy. I absolutely loved it. This was back in 2007. From here, I have progressed through the club to Head Physiotherapist, whist completing a Master’s degree in sports Physiotherapy at Bath University and I’m currently undertaking a second Master’s degree in Strength and Conditioning at St Marys University, Twickenham.
Tell us about some of the players you’ve treated, the managers you’ve worked with and the highs and low points.
Managers I have worked with in no order include Simon Davey, Mark Robins, Keith Hill, David Flitcroft, Danny Wilson, Lee Johnson, Paul Heckingbottom, José Morais, Daniel Stendel and Gerhard Struber. Think I’ve got them all! I have had highs and lows with all managers. Arguments, disagreements, this is a normal part of football in a high performance environment. A lot of the time we have to remember these managers are under significant amounts of pressure and it can do strange things to people. So I try hard not to judge. We had some great times under Paul (Heckingbottom) when we got promoted. There was a real sense of being wanted, respected and happy during this time. But staying up at Huddersfield was unreal. That feeling was amazing after the final whistle and knowing we had done it. Danny Wilson was such a good person. For some reason he never believed I could play outfield and he always referred to me as a goalkeeper? He still does now. I am still wanting to know where he gets his 5-pack of the same t-shirts from! Keith and Flicker had so much energy. They were like football Duracell batteries. You knew when they were at work. They loved football so much and they could talk about it all day long. José was a bit of a culture shock if I’m honest. He was the first foreign coach I had worked with and the day to day aspects were completely different from a typical British manager. I have learnt something from every single manager and I now use this to help manage situations currently going forward. Hopefully for the better.
I won’t talk about the usual players everyone mentions they have worked with from our club. It would be too boring and the same old. I will tell you about the characters I have worked with. Jon Macken, he refused to get ice baths, he believed hot baths helped him more. Mido, a very funny man who knew everyone. Peter Ramage, the ultimate level headed professional. Nathan Doyle and Butts (Jacob Butterfield) are very relaxed people. Jim O’Brien always pranking and messing about. Brian Howard would play with any injury. That reminds me of Alex Mowatt now. Heinz Muller, a huge personality and intimidating man. Ricardo Vaz Te, he was such a good person and he used to bring me specialist chocolate to try on Fridays. Darren Moore had the kindest heart you would like to meet. Animal on the field though. Toni Silva, he used to call me crazy for making him run English style. The likes of Luke Steele, Stephen Foster, Kenny Dougall, I could have normal conversations with. Conor Hourihane, Adam Davies and Alfie Mawson having it in the dressing room with each other because we were losing. Showed how much it meant to them. I have loved working with all these players and I’ve got so many stories I could sit here writing all day. My favourite person though was Rimmo. He was so blunt with me at times, so cutting, but it was always what I needed. My first encounter with him was in the West Stand boot room. He grabbed me with his huge hands because we were having a boot room brawl (when I was 16). He scared me to death. Later, in my physio career he would pass on every-day knowledge when I would go and speak to him. Stories about his time as a player, coach and physio. I loved speaking with him and miss him a lot.
What is special about this club in your opinion?
When I first started at the club there was a sense of togetherness, community spirit. A lot of people who were working at the club had been there for years and seen a lot of things. People like Rimmo, Cath (cleaner), Elaine (Laundry), Sharon (administration), Karen (Finance), Beth (administration), Matt (shop), Academy staff like Ronnie and Bunny. These are the real people behind how the club works. Everyone knows everyone. Everyone wants the club to be successful. Everyone is disappointed if something doesn’t work. Even local people, they are constantly trying hard to help the club in whatever way they can. This is what is special about this club.
Do you see yourself here until you’re no longer wanted?!
Yes, I am hoping to break Rimmo’s record of 200 years service! That’s up to Dane (Murphy) though, but I hope so.
Have any managers tried to take you with them?
Hecky once tried to employ me as his personal jester at his home. He always thought my banter was the best even though he wouldn’t admit it. I told him he couldn’t afford me. This happens in football all the time, there have been a few offers of different employment but for me, I am from Barnsley, I support Barnsley, my family lives in Barnsley, my boy goes to school in Barnsley, my wife works at Barnsley Hospital. It does not make sense to move clubs. I would be lying to say I would never move clubs because I have a family to provide for and they should always come first in life. However, I love it here and there is no reason that will change.
What’s the easiest/hardest part of the job?
Gerhard recently said my name was “the bearer of bad news” and I thought that was quite funny. Hilly used to say to me, “if it’s bad news go away.” In all honesty, this is the hard part of the job. Telling the coaches their best player will be out for a certain amount of time. Especially if it’s a period where we have lost a few games and we need the win. Often being a middle man is hard too. Coach saying he wants a player to play with an injury. Player saying he cannot play. I am often the middle man going between. That’s frustrating at times. Personally, it isn’t nice telling players they have a significant injury that is going to keep them out for a while. This is the worst. I had one player retire with me. One of our up and coming young pros. He just could not get over a cartilage injury in his knee. That was heart breaking watching him work so hard every day with no success. If I could have swapped him knees I would have gladly.
Another difficulty, is smiling every day. We are often the first point of contact, we have to portray positivity and energy every day. I can remember a time when Vikki (Stevens) and I were so ill on the same day. We were taking it in turns to be in the physio room whilst the other laid on the doctor’s couch in the back room wanting to sleep. Easier parts of the job are turning up to a place you are wanted and respected. The banter with the lads is unbelievable. Every day can be so funny. You had to watch your back with players like Rob Kozluk and Adam Hammill. I once had my pockets filled up with left-over dinner.
Tell us about your little team…
What can I say about these guys? Amazing people firstly! Their hearts are so big and like me they would do anything to ensure care is given to the highest standards. I spend so much time with Vikki, often seven days a week. She is a really good physio and pushes me to be better every day. That’s why I know she is good. Gavin (Walker) is my running nemesis. He runs everywhere and I wish I was as fit as him. I will catch you, chicken legs. Gavin is another really good physio who has experience in Rugby and football now. He works with the 23s and heads the academy physiotherapists. Finally, Tom Haigh has just started with us, working with the 18s and he is fitting in really well. I am really proud of the way these people give themselves to help others. They work so hard and expect very little in return. I can see all of them doing really well in their careers.
Talk to us about the day that our own, Steve Croft collapsed.
This was not a nice day to recall. It still sends shivers down my spine. Seeing Steve collapse and me being involved in his resuscitation effort was numbing. At the time everything went blank and everyone went into work mode. Our paramedic team are truly fantastic. I am not just saying this, but I have been up and down the country and I have met a lot of paramedic teams. I can tell you ours is fantastic. From a physio point of view we are quite highly trained in first aid and nowadays we are not allowed to work on the pitch without the FA qualifications. I have to give high praise to the FA for introducing this. Any physio or doctor attending the FA ATMiFF qualification will tell you, it is the worse two days. You get absolutely grilled on procedures relating to first aid. They are not shy in failing people so you have to be on the ball. This training came in handy in this scenario. I was only a very small part in this day. The true heroes are the doctors and paramedics. I am just so happy that Steve pulled through. Seeing him on matchday now always brings a smile to my face.
And to sum up, can you tell us what’s happening right now for you during this pandemic, how is it affecting your job and home life?
It is really difficult at the moment on so many levels. First of all, it puts football and life into perspective. People are losing their loved ones and that must be so difficult for them. I have a slight sense of guilt that I am at home and cannot do anything to help. Seeing my wife (a Nurse) go to work every morning makes me proud of her though. I wish I could help out like her. It is strange not having a football routine. Working towards a game on a Saturday is the normal. My routine now revolves around my seven-year-old. Breakfast then home schooling until lunch time. Garden football and bike riding with him in the afternoon. However, I still have a job to do too. Currently I am having to work from home. We are providing the lads with some light sessions this week via Zoom and WhatsApp calls. Any niggles are being sorted with advice over video calls. Next week, Luke (Dopson) is giving them more extensive fitness programs to follow. From an injury point of view, we are quite lucky. The injuries we have are all end stages so they have been able to follow their rehabilitation plans from isolation. Thankfully they don’t need anything hands on. Hopefully we can all put this nightmare behind us soon and enjoy many more games at Oakwell. Winning ones!
Stay safe everyone and be thankful for what we have got.