Manchester City’s 3-1 victory at Arsenal on Wednesday night meant the tussle for the Premier League title was well and truly back on. The time honoured chant – ‘Fight ‘Til The End – rang out loud from the exuberant travelling fans, as City went top of the table.
Two hundred miles north of the Emirates Stadium, a little girl was fighting for something immeasurably more important than three precious Premier League points. Milly-Rose Stirrup, at just six-and-half years old, was fighting for her life, as her City heroes celebrated a memorable win.
Born into a family of Blues – her Daddy, Shaun, Uncle Liam and Grandad Kieron – Milly-Rose was always going to follow in their footsteps, always destined to be a City fan.
She celebrated Valentine’s Day with Shaun and her Mummy, Pip, with her customary zest for life and fun loving nature. She was always the apple of her Daddy’s eye. She was happy. She was fine.
The next day she caught what’s believed to have been a 24-hour sickness bug, a virus which escalated with frightening speed. She became critically ill and within 10 hours Milly-Rose’s heart stopped and she died at Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital last Thursday.
It was every parent’s worst nightmare – a tragedy, seemingly out of the blue – one that has left all who knew Milly-Rose shocked and deeply traumatised.
Distraught, desolate, devastated – no words come close to describing the family’s heartbreak – but Shaun, Pip and Liam have paid tributes to the ‘Angel’ of the Stirrup family.
Shaun and Pip said: “Milly-Rose became an angel after an illness which came out of nowhere. She fought so hard to stay with us, but she just couldn’t fight it off.
‘We are broken and there’s a hole in our hearts that will never ever be filled again. God blessed us with an angel and unfortunately needed her back to run things up there. You were too special for this world darling – life is so unfair.
‘Sleep tight darling – Mummy and Daddy love you all the way to the moon and the stars and back again.’
Liam – better known to Read But Never Red as ‘The Stizmeister’ and the man who created our new website – described her as ’...caring, fierce, funny and too beautiful for this earth.’
‘You grew your angel wings and knocked at Heaven’s Gate. Sleep tight Milly-Rose, Heaven is so lucky to have you.’
Bill Shankly, the legendary Liverpool boss of the 1960s and 70s once said: ‘Some people believe football is a matter of life and death. I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much more important than that.’
It’s a famous quote, but surely one said tongue in cheek.
Football means so much to so many people the world over, but in the greater scheme of things it’s a game which pales into insignificance, when contrasted with the loss of life, especially one so young and innocent as Milly-Rose.
The adage, ‘no parent should outlive their child’ is as true today as it was whenever first coined, and will remain so for eternity.
Shaun said: “She was a MASSIVE City fan. Milly-Rose loved the club and was head over heels for Phil Foden. She said when she grew up she wanted to marry him.
“We’re just empty – there are no words – but having an opportunity to tell the wider City family about Milly-Rose, and how special she was, is a small comfort.”
Pip added: “She was such a special little girl who touched the hearts of hundreds of people in her short life – she really did light up any room she was in.”
By David Walker
Our love, thoughts and deepest condolences go to Shaun, Pip, Liam, Kieron and all of Milly-Rose’s family and friends. Please know that you’re not standing alone.
Twitter: @ReadButNeverRed @djwskyblu