'We just want to help': Friends and family of Stoke City fan Jonathan Ibbs speak of admiration for cancer battle
IT WAS during a flight home from the Potter's Europa League fixture with Valencia last year that the severity of Jonathan's condition became clear.
He reached for a drink but was unable to grip the container as the first stages of his mobility problems began to take effect.
A group of friends had made the trip out to Spain to take enjoy their team's European adventure in February 2012.
However, the journey back left everyone aware that serious changes lay ahead in the father-of-two's life.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Our heavyweight cards have FREE UV silk coating, FREE next day delivery & VAT included. Choose from 1000's of pre-designed templates or upload your own artwork. Orders dispatched within 24hrs.
Terms: Visit our site for more products: Business Cards, Compliment Slips, Letterheads, Leaflets, Postcards, Posters & much more. All items are free next day delivery. www.myprint-247.co.uk
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Friday, May 31 2013
Mark Weston has known Jonathan since the pair attended Florence Primary School together.
The 33-year-old, of Dresden, said: "He doesn't want to feel like he is different and wanted to come to Valencia and do something normal."
Despite the incident on the journey home, just a month later Jonathan, pictured below, was on his way to Prague for a stag do.
Mark, who works with special needs children, said: "He simply wants to carry on as normal and has never wanted to show the illness is affecting him. I think the fact he came on the two trips says a lot about his character."
It was 2006 when medics told Jonathan they had found a brain tumour.
"When I found out I was just gutted," said Mark. "He was such an outgoing bloke and would always be at the pub with his mates and going to see Stoke City. All we can to do is just support him. We will go and see him when he is at hospital and ask the doctors how he is doing."
Jonathan's visits to the Britannia Stadium have become rare and the trophies from his time at Longton Cricket Club and the local Ladsandads league now represent a chapter in his life that is unrecognisable from the present.
But at the weekend Jonathan's friends were able to show their support by giving him back some normality and whisking him off to the home of the Potters.
A limousine arrived at Jonathan's home, in Dresden, where he lives with mum Sue and dad Neil, at 11.30am to take the group up to the Britannia Stadium.
As the friends prepared for the day, a signed Stoke City shirt hung behind them in the lounge – a gift presented to the qualified plumber at the club's Clayton Wood training facility by Potters star Jonathan Walters as legends Terry Conroy and Denis Smith looked on.
On arriving at the ground on Saturday, the group of eight – which included Jonathan's mum and two sons Kieran and Connor, enjoyed a tour of the stadium – which included a glimpse of the dressing rooms and the dug-outs.
After hearing of Jonathan's plight, local companies Staffordshire Refractory Services and BS Supplies pitched in to fund the visit.
Another friend, Greg Hand, arranged the limousine.
Serial fund-raiser Dave Ryder, who has known Jonathan since the pair attended Edensor High School, said: "We cannot do anything for him apart from give him things to look forward to and be positive about."
Dave, aged 32, of Longton, who has cycled to every Premier League ground to raise cash for charity, said: "It is humbling when you see people who need help and seeing what Jonathan has been through, I truly think he is an inspiration to us."
Dealing with adversity is not new to the Ibbs family. Jonathan's sister Samantha was just 21 when she passed away from Crohn's Disease.
"It has been devastating for Jonathan and his family and I saw what they went through with Sam," said Dave.
"You hear people complain about little things in life but when you see what they go through on a daily basis it puts things into perspective. We just hope that taking him up to see Stoke will help him."
Jonathan, who worked with youngsters with autism before being forced to quit work, has revealed his gratitude.
He said: "It has really helped to get so much support from my friends.
"It is hard at times as I can't take my sons to play football or anything like that.
"I listen to Stoke on the radio and watch them on the television so I have been really looking forward to going back to the Brit."