Former Chester City striker Junior Agogo has opened up on his battle to regain his speech after suffering a stroke.
Agogo, 38, was featured in the BBC Four documentary ‘Speechless’ which chronicled his battle, along with others, with aphasia - the impairment of language that affects the ability to speak or comprehend speech and the ability to read and write.
Agogo played 10 games for Chester during the 1999/2000 season and scored six times during a successful loan spell, including one of the most memorable goals to be scored at the Deva Stadium in a Division Three game against Cheltenham.
He played professional football for 17 years and retired in 2012 having represented clubs such as Nottingham Forest, Queens Park Rangers, Hibernian and American side Colorado Rapids. He also played 27 times for the Ghanaian national team.
But in January 2015, aged just 36, his world changed after he suffered a stroke out jogging with his dog near his London home. It was an event that would have a lasting effect.
He told the BBC documentary: “I was running with my dog and I was coming back home and I was near the Marriott Hotel and the stroke happened. When I got up I was in the hospital with my mum sitting there and I couldn’t speak. I was in a bad way.
“Now I’m doing okay, but...”
Agogo spent time in hospital in the aftermath and made a good physical recovery.
But his ability to communicate has been severely impaired by his stroke, with his mother, Jennie, revealing that the former striker sometimes spends days in bed so as not to be in situations where his speech may become an issue.
Proudly showing off his framed jerseys of opponents he faced during an illustrious career, names such as Didier Drogba and Michael Essien appear on the wall of his mother’s flat, where he now lives along with his dog, Blanket.
But after experiencing such highs with football, Agogo admits that the world is a lonelier place since his stroke.
“Now nobody gets in touch with me,” he said with smile.
“I used to talk with a couple of boys on the national team but when the stroke happened...I couldn’t speak.
“I am anxious about language. I can find the words but I’m anxious in case I get the word wrong. I want to speak like you, that’s all.
“I know that it’s for the rest of my life but it’s getting me down a bit.
“(When I woke up from the stroke) I had thoughts but I was thinking ‘where is my voice?’ I was baffled. I couldn’t speak. It was mad as I could think it but I couldn’t say it.
“I haven’t got any confidence but it’s okay. That’s life.”
Agogo attends clinics at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery in London as he bids to improve his communication.
Jacqueline McIntosh, his consultant speech and language therapist at the hospital told the BBC: “He had his stroke two years ago and presented with acute aphasia. It was difficult to assess him as his language was so impaired.
“He wasn’t speaking at all at the beginning and couldn’t say anything at all. He started to make a quick recovery in the early stages but it has become much slower in the last year.
“It is both. It is the psycho-social adjustment to the level it is at. It is about you and about how you want to move forward. Some people with a level of language of Junior might do more but some people might do much less. But he doesn’t go outside his safety zone at the moment.
“He doesn’t have the free flow of language to communicate his needs, his thoughts, his concerns.”
The BBC Four documentary ‘Speechless’ is abvailable on the BBC iPlayer.