The father of Joseph Kendrick – the inspirational tot behind the Joseph’s Goal campaign – has spoken of his delight following the decision of the club to have Joseph lead out the team in this weekend’s FA Cup Final at Wembley.
Joseph, who turned four years old on Thursday, is battling Non-Ketotic Hyperglycinemia (NKH), an extremely rare genetic disorder his family is raising money to fund research into.
His father, Paul Kendrick (football correspondent for the Wigan Observer) was amazed at the news Joseph would be leading the team out on the biggest day in the club’s history, and said:
”It’s just an amazing gesture from Wigan Athletic, we were absolutely gob-smacked when they asked us.
“Everyone at the club has been so supportive - from Roberto and (Chief Executive) Jonathan Jackson, to the players, and the staff - but this is something else.
“To lead the players out at the FA Cup final is the most incredible honour.
“The whole family has been so excited and it’ll be a proud moment when we see Joe at the
head of the team as they come out.
“More than a billion people will be watching the final worldwide, which will hopefully create so much awareness for Joseph’s Goal.
“Hopefully Joe will prove to be a lucky charm for Latics, and the lads can come home with the cup to make it the perfect weekend.”
Roberto Martinez is an ambassador for the charity, and added:
“I think it has been over eight months now that we have been making great steps forward with the awareness of Joseph’s Goal and it’s a fantastically fitting moment to have Joe as our lucky mascot at Wembley.
“It is great for us to make sure that this historic day for Wigan Athletic has Joseph’s Goal as part of it, it’s a fantastic project and it deserves all of the awareness that we can get.
“I think football allows you to have that goal together, I remember the reaction of our fans for Emma Hoolin’s campaign who walked to Bolton last season.
“These are the moments that you see from our fans the human side to the club that is so important and that comes through the love of the football club and that’s a very nice way of doing good things and getting the rewards for it.”
When Joseph was diagnosed shortly after birth his parents, Paul and Emma, were told by doctors after his birth that it was unlikely he would ever leave hospital.
But Joseph, who recently started a new school, has proved to be a little fighter and inspired his parents to set up Joseph’s Goal to raise awareness and fund research into NKH.
Wigan’s sporting community - including Latics and Warriors - have supported the cause since it was launched last year and the funds have been making a significant difference.
Last month it was announced that due to the funds raised, the team at the University of Colorado researching NKH has been able to take on a new member of staff.