CCF Rebooted 17: Stephen Darby
Thursday, 14th Oct 2021 10:10 by AtThePeake
Stephen Darby has become an inspirational figure both inside and outside of football in the years following his loan spell at Rochdale.
Arrived from: Liverpool (loan)
Played : 2011-2012
Appearances : 35
Goals : 0
Left for: Bradford City
Although now known around the footballing world for his work with the Darby Rimmer MND Foundation having had to retire aged just 29 after being diagnosed with motor neurone disease in 2018, Stephen Darby was once a bright spark in a woeful Rochdale relegation campaign in 2011/2012.
Having been brought up just north of the city, Darby progressed through the ranks of Liverpool FC as a youngster, making a handful of first-team appearances in the Premier League and Champions League and spending time out on loan at both Swindon Town and Notts County prior to the 2011/2012 campaign.
As Dale desperately struggled throughout the season to gain any consistency as a team, the same couldn't be said about Darby himself, who remained a steady presence in a season that was anything but.
Not the most attack-minded full-back (he never scored a league goal in his 267 career appearances), Darby was at least a calming influence at right-back and when fit, his place in the team was never under threat as he made 35 league appearances in that term and in turn, earned himself a deal with Bradford City once his Liverpool contract expired at the end of the campaign.
On a personal note, this season coincided with my first year at University and after reaching out to several of the Dale players on Twitter to help with a project, Darby was the one to not only respond but go above and beyond with much more interaction than I expected or even needed, for which I was incredibly grateful.
During his time at Valley Parade, Darby continued to establish himself as an extremely dependable lower league option and he was part of the impressive Bradford squad that would become only the second fourth-tier club to reach the final of a major competition when they reached the League Cup final in 2013.
When another former Dale player, Gary Jones, left the Bantams a year later, Darby was installed as club captain at Valley Parade and enjoyed the best campaign of his career, sweeping up at the club's end of season awards at the end of the 2013/2014 campaign.
He would only leave Bradford in 2017 in order to reunite with former manager Phil Parkinson at Bolton Wanderers, though he would appear just three times for the Whites before having to announce his retirement due to his diagnosis.
Together with his wife, England Women and Manchester City Women captain Steph Houghton, Darby has done fine work in raising awareness and funding for sufferers of Motor Neurone Disease since his own diagnosis and continues to be a key voice in the fight to fund research in the hope of finding a cure in the coming years.
You can find out more about Motor Neurone Disease and donate to the Darby Rimmer foundation here: https://darbyrimmermnd.co.uk
Photo: Action Images
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