Professional Footballers’ Association chief executive Maheta Molango has been praised for his response to football’s problem with brain injuries by the wife of former England captain Dave Watson.
Penny Watson has been campaigning for authorities to help out former players who have a neurodegenerative disease – a lengthening list which includes her husband.
She has been critical of the PFA’s response to the issue but is encouraged by Molango’s handling of the situation since he replaced Gordon Taylor at the organisation in July.
She said in a statement: “Much of my dissatisfaction has been directed towards the PFA and I have openly criticised them in the media. But that was the old regime who up until relatively recently even denied there was a connection between playing and developing this ‘footballers’ dementia’.
“Now I am pleased to say that my attitude towards the new PFA has changed as their new CEO Maheta Molango, I believe, has the dementia situation high on his agenda.
“Having been able to have had several conversations with him and listened to what he had to say on this topic delivered in a very passionate way I have hope that he will now be a true leader of the players’ union and fight on the players’ behalf as any leader of a union should do for its members.
“I certainly do not think it is just platitudes either. I know that he has taken the time to visit families of former players to hear what they have to say and more importantly what they need. These visits have not been publicised as he is not interested in any glory, does not have an ego but just wants to do the right thing.
“Words are easy, we all know that, but now is the time for action and Maheta is working extremely hard to put right the indifference shown by the PFA in the past and will, I am hopeful, be a strong, informed advocate for the players, former, current and future. What he has achieved already in four months in active office is commendable.
“Let’s all give Maheta a chance to prove himself. But if he fails I shall be the first to criticise.”
Researchers at Glasgow University found former footballers were approximately three and a half times more likely to die from neurodegenerative disease than the general population.
Dawn Astle, the daughter of former West Brom striker Jeff Astle, whose death in 2002 at the age of 59 was attributed to chronic traumatic encephalopathy, has campaigned tirelessly for greater recognition of the issue.
England World Cup winners Nobby Stiles, Jack Charlton, Ray Wilson and Martin Peters are among those to have died after suffering from dementia, while Sir Bobby Charlton, Denis Law, Terry McDermott and Gordon McQueen are all living with degenerative neurological conditions.