Hayley McQueen opens up on ex-Man United father Gordon's dementia
11th April 2023

‘It’s like he’s locked in himself’: Hayley McQueen opens up on her ex-Man United father Gordon’s heartbreaking bed-bound state at 70 as he suffers with dementia… and joins calls to ban heading from football training

  • Former defender Gordon McQueen was diagnosed with dementia two years ago
  • His daughter Hayley admitted they considered not telling him the bad news
  • INTERVIEW:  ‘My dad was big and strong… now he’s been deserted’ 

Hayley McQueen has opened up on her father Gordon’s heartbreaking battle with dementia, saying the former Scotland, Manchester United and Leeds United defender is ‘locked in himself’ and ‘completely bedridden.’

The 70-year-old became the latest former footballer to be diagnosed with dementia two years ago having repeatedly headed heavy balls during his playing days.

Daughter Hayley, a broadcaster for Sky Sports News, who spoke exclusively to Sportsmail last month, has joined calls to ban heading from training sessions to prevent young players suffering the same fate.

Speaking to ITV’s Good Morning Britain, she said: ‘He is completely bedridden, which is awful. A big strapping man, just in bed.

‘He watches a lot of football, not current football, he has a lot of football friends popping by. We’ve had a lot of his ex-team-mates come by.

Broadcaster Hayley McQueen has opened up about her father Gordon’s heartbreaking battle with dementia on ITV’s Good Morning Britain

Gordon McQueen played for Scotland, Manchester United and Leeds United and is pictured with daughter Hayley after the Old Trafford club won the 1983 FA Cup final

‘He knows who we all are, which is very weird because I associate dementia with not having a clue what on earth is going on or who anybody is and I quite like that fact, from a selfish point of view.

‘Part of me is like “if he didn’t know who we were, where we were, it maybe wouldn’t be so hard to think about potentially the day when he has to go into a home. At least he doesn’t know where he is or what’s going on”.

‘He’s very aware, it’s like he’s locked in himself.’

McQueen admitted her family considered not breaking the news of the dementia diagnosis to Gordon only for the hospital to reveal it.

She added: ‘When we found out that he had dementia, we were given the diagnosis, we debated whether to tell him or not.

‘We were like “if we don’t tell him, he’s never going to know” and if we tell him do we then have to remind him every day that he’s got dementia?

‘We weren’t going to tell him and then we’re sat in the hospital and they said “ok, Gordon, this is how we deal with dementia” and that was that then.

‘He said “I don’t want to get worse, I want to get better.”

Hayley (L) has spoken out of the pain of watching her father (R) deteriorate rapidly – claiming he is ‘completely bedridden’ and ‘locked in himself’ 

McQueen was known for his notable aerial presence – with a recent brain scan showing the damage that had been done from heading

‘We had to sit there and say “well, we don’t think you’re going to get better but we are going to try and make everything as good as it can be. We will be there for you, we will be around you.”

‘I’d just had a baby so I was dealing with the emotions of all of that, it was a 4.5 hour drive from the parents in the north-east because obviously I work in the south-west so obviously that was tough knowing I was so far away and a little bit helpless.

‘Covid then happened which meant you couldn’t see your family. All these people my dad enjoyed being around weren’t able to be around him.’

In an exclusive interview with Sportsmail recently, Hayley spoke of her anger at a lack of support for her father from the Professional Footballers’ Association [PFA].

She said then: ‘My sister did get in touch with someone who we won’t name at the PFA.

Hayley – pictured being cradled and fed by her father in 1980 – has questioned why no one from the PFA has been in touch to offer support

Hayley said her father can still recognise members of his family despite the dementia 

She called for tighter restrictions on youngsters heading footballs to protect their brains 

‘She got an email back which said that it cannot be proven that heading caused this until you have a post-mortem. It also said we had to take into account dad’s ‘lifestyle choices’. At that point we dropped contact. We saw them in a different light. 

‘I know there have been changes and I know that Dawn Astle and Penny Watson are working so hard there and they have provided a lot of emotional support for mum – this is not a criticism of them – but to me it seems like things were better run under Gordon Taylor than they are now.’

On GMB, Hayley called for tighter restrictions on the heading of footballs in training sessions, especially in kids teams.

She said: ‘They shouldn’t [allow unlimited heading], particularly children and young people whose brains are just developing and they are more at risk.

‘They can’t make decisions for themselves so laws have to be in place to ban heading of the ball under certain ages. Which there are laws in place now.’

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