Our Patch October 2015 - Page 10

Our Patch OCTOBER 2015 Our Patch OCTOBER 2015 W hen rugby legend Ben Cohen powered down the wing, he rarely passed to team-mates, and always ignored their exasperated shouts. It was only after the joint second highest England try scorer of all time retired from the game that specialists discovered that he was clinically deaf. “He jokes that that’s why he was such a high scorer; he claims he never heard anyone else calling for the ball,” laughed Sarah Edworthy, who has ghost-written the fast-paced try-scorer’s life story. Launched to coincide with the Rugby World Cup, Carry Me Home: My Autobiography is published by Ebury Press at £20. Ben, who has just turned 37, has had an incredible journey. Despite coming from a footballing background (Uncle George made 459 appearances for Fulham and played right back in England’s 1966 World Cup team) he decided at 12 that rugby was his game. Supported on his rugby journey by his father Peter – who knew nothing about the game with ‘the wrongshaped ball’ – he soon made a name for himself, eventually making 57 international appearances and helping win the 2003 Rugby World Cup for England in Australia… the final remembered for that extraordinary lastgasp Jonny Wilkinson drop goal in the dying seconds. “Ben had unbelievable pace, and scored incredible tries, especially against the very strong teams,” said Sarah, who has lived in Brackenbury Village, near Ravenscourt Park, for 18 years. “His story is inspirational, but also incredibly sad.” At school no one realised Ben was clinically deaf in both ears. He bluffed his way through it Ben’s father was savagely beaten up after intervening to stop a night club fight, and died a month later from serious head injuries. Ben was 20. He was talking to reporters at an England press conference when the word came through that his father had passed away. 10/11 The Cohen family is Hammersmith & Fulham through and through. Both Peter and George were brought up in Burne Jones House in Fulham’s North End Road, in what were then newly constructed council flats. Ben Cohen, pictured top right aged 17 with dad Peter, and playing for England against Wales in 2004 MAIN PHOTO: ROBERT WILSON Others: ACTION IMAGES BY NUMBERS BEN COHEN Age: 37 Age when he started rugby: 12 Senior caps: 210 Club career points: 400 Seasons he played in France: 2 England caps: 57 England points: 155 Tries on his England debut: 2 Number of celebrities knocked out before him on Strictly: 7 Twitter followers: 95,000 Former England coach Sir Clive Woodward, an important mentor and trainer to Ben, had to lead him out of the room to break the news to him. The impact put the family under terrible strain, but Ben channelled his anger and pain into his rugby. “At school no one realised he was clinically deaf in both ears,” said Sarah, a former sports feature writer on The Daily Telegraph. “Ben bluffed his way through it, so it wouldn’t count against him. “It was only after he retired from the game that he had his hearing checked. Some of his team-mates considered him arrogant because he always seemed to ignore them.” THE GHOST WRITER For Sarah, one of the most pleasurable aspects of helping Ben write his memoirs has been interviewing family and friends. “George reminisced about his Fulham days,” said Sarah. “He’s a lovely person to chat to; he chats and chuckles at the same time. He is very supportive of Ben.” Peter met Ben’s mother when he was working at Harrods as a distribution manager. “He was the most supportive dad,” said Sarah. “A real Del Boy type; larger than life with the proverbial heart of gold.” Part of Ben’s story is a tale of his motivation, and how, having retired from the game, he funnelled his energies into combatting bullying, including homophobic bullying. “It’s a sad book, too, because he’s a candid, kind-hearted bloke who is open about his feelings,” said Sarah. “He was very conscientious to work with, always suggesting other people I could talk to, to get a different angle.” That entailed hopping on the bus down King Street to interview Sir Clive Woodward in Hammersmith, and talking to Matt Dawson, who also lives nearby. Sarah, who studied English at Oxford, is carving out an intriguing career in ghost-writing books for people in the news, as well as producing more mainstream volumes, many drawing on her experience acquired during 12 years on the Telegraph sports desk. She penned the story of the London 2012 torch relay, she co-wrote the account of