It’s August 30, 2020 at Easter Road Stadium and with 54 minutes on the clock, it’s no surprise to see # 23 on the electronic card to signal a substitution.
With Hibernian on the verge of claiming their first loss of the season against Aberdeen after a promising start to the campaign, playmaker Scott Allan struggled to make an impact and left the game early for the third time in so many departures.
The season only has six games but Allan is tired, despite four months off due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He knows something is wrong.
“I came back for the preseason and did the usual tough sessions and felt great, but after about three or four weeks I started to feel real tired. I was dizzy and felt weak. “, says Allan Sky Sports News in an exclusive interview.
“I have type 1 diabetes, so everyone’s guessing it’s something to do with your diabetes [but] I knew something was behind it.
“It wasn’t until we played in Aberdeen and after 10 minutes I felt physically exhausted. I remember being substituted and thinking, ‘I have to get to the bottom of this, I can’t continue to play like that ‘. wasn’t benefiting the team because I wasn’t playing my best and it certainly wasn’t benefiting me in terms of how I felt and how I could impact the games.
“We did extensive checks. I went to my diabetic consultant just to make sure everything was okay, and it was. I went to Hampden (medical center) for a heart screening and they were not happy with the ECG (electrocardiogram). “
After being asked to stop training after his ECG results in Glasgow, Allan expected to head to a routine check-up in London.
“I had MRI scans and a few other heart tests, but it all looked okay. It wasn’t until we did the stress test, which tests the heart under stress that brings me back to playing football. At first glance. , in a relaxed state, you wouldn’t know there was a problem, but when we did the stress test, it showed cardiomyopathy. “
Cardiomyopathy is a disease that causes the walls of the heart to become too thick, restricting blood flow around the body. He was instrumental in the deaths of Motherwell midfielder Phil O’Donnell in 2007 and Cameroon international Marc-Vivien Foe in 2003, both during matches. Fabrice Muamba’s cardiac arrest at White Hart Lane in 2012 was due to the same condition.
Of course, receiving such news came as a huge shock to Allan.
“You always think of the worst, especially when it’s something like heart disease. It’s a scary thing,” he says. “It was just surprising because you go to these things, you do these tests and you think everything is going to be okay – you are a fit professional footballer – but that was not the case that day.”
Allan faced the very real prospect of having to prematurely end a career that had taken spells at clubs such as Celtic, West Brom and Dundee United, as well as 10 caps for Scotland’s U21s.
“When it came to my football career, I feared the worst, to be honest,” he admitted. “As for how I felt the previous months in terms of symptoms, I was not happy with the way it affected me in a game. I was really worried.
“I went to see all of the medical staff at Hibs and from there we arranged a second opinion and a third opinion via a Zoom call with a leading expert in New York.”
With his career at a standstill, Allan focused on caring for his five-year-old son, Zac. But he was still a top footballer and there was plenty of speculation as to why he had disappeared from the Hibernian team.
Allan explains, “Zac kept asking, ‘why don’t you play dad today?’ He owns Hibs TV so in his house I used the old excuse “I’m hurt”. He loves football. It was a moving time when he asked “Daddy, don’t you play football anymore?”
“You were going to his soccer practice and the guys had read things, heard things and sometimes they can forget you have a five year old next to you and ask you, ‘what’s going on? “and” do you no longer play football? “
“When you find out that you have heart disease and you have a young son, the job is all about being a father and being there and not putting him in danger, so that was a big decision. a sport I love and the only way I was going to continue was if I didn’t have the symptoms and put myself in danger. “
Meanwhile, all Allan could do was wait. His career would be in the hands of medical experts who had been asked to give further advice on his condition. If they supported the original exam, then it would be difficult to resume the game.
“I obviously checked and it’s like anything you type into Google – it’s not the answer you want to see,” Allan admits. “I had spoken to a few other people who had the same condition in professional sport and they were back playing and managing it which gave me a lot of motivation to move forward.
“I only got the second opinion at the end of November. It was basically three months without doing anything. It came back very positive and that’s when the previous cardiologist got in touch and the two of them got in touch. made a plan to find me back to the training park.
“I did a six week mini pre-season, step by step, to see how I would feel week by week and if the symptoms would come back and the training was getting difficult.
“Fortunately, I haven’t had any symptoms since coming back and I have personally felt the best I have felt in my playing career in terms of controlling my diabetes and finding out that I have had my entire career.
“Now I know what to do to stop having symptoms. I’m in a good situation right now.”
In his absence, Hibernian had progressed to the semi-finals of the League Cup and, 25 games after his appearance against Aberdeen, it was in this game at Hampden Park that Allan returned to the squad.
Unfortunately, by the time Hibs called the midfielder from the bench, their last four opponents, St Johnstone, had taken a 3-0 lead. But for Allan, the day marked the end of a journey that brought him over the brink in fears for his career and long-term health.
He said: “I felt quite moved after the game. It was a disappointing result but I felt proud of myself.
“Being on the football field with my teammates is something I will never take for granted again. These are the things you love and it’s hard to take them away from you.
“After the game all the boys had been disappointed, but everyone came up to me and said to themselves, ‘It’s good to see you back there.’ That’s probably why I was moved. That day.
“I feel a lot safer knowing what the disease is and knowing what to do to manage it and make sure I don’t have those kinds of symptoms. Which could have been.”
Going public with heart disease is not something a professional athlete takes lightly, but in addition to explaining its absence, Allan wants to highlight the issue and educate other footballers.
“I think awareness is important to make sure every player is tested to the best possible quality at every club,” Allan said. “I wouldn’t have known this if I hadn’t been to the cardiologist in London, so I think it’s a huge thing whether something is underlying it.
“An opinion might not just be the definitive answer and it certainly has been with me, but it can be a serious condition. Another player might not be so lucky, but you can overcome these things and you forge a career. “
Watch the full interview via Sky Sports On Demand or on the Sky Sports YouTube channel.