Robbie Savage recalls driving home “with tears in his eyes” in a moving dementia interview


On the eve of the first ‘Dementia International’ between England and Switzerland, Robbie Savage tells Mirror readers: ‘If your mum or dad has dementia, give them a kiss and tell them you love them… they won’t be here forever.”

Robbie Savage holds father Colin by the hand as he retires from football at Derby alongside sons Charlie and Freddie in 2011

Leads the day tenderly by his father’s hand Robbie Savage went out to play his last game Derby County remains a poignant moment that he will always cherish.

Colin Savage, a retired engineer, had been struck down by Pick’s disease — a form of dementia similar to Alzheimer’s — and he may not have understood everything that’s going on around him in Pride Park.

But as a moment in time, it takes pride of place in the family album: a proud son thanks his father, who made his football career possible, and shares this moment with 25,746 fans.

Just 11 months later and almost 10 years to the day, Savage’s father died at the age of 64 and the sadness has never left him.

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Colin, Val, Robbie and Autobiography


Cater’s news agency)

But when England’s footballers play Switzerland on Saturday, it will be a breakthrough in the fight against dementia.

For the first time, an English game has been named an Alzheimer’s Society International to raise money and awareness for the FA’s charity partner.

The number of people living with dementia in the UK could fill Wembley tenfold, and the number of family members or carers whose lives are being horribly altered by the condition is in the millions.

Watching his role model and hero slip into the sunset in the grip of an insidious and irreversible disease had a profound effect on Savage and his mother Val, whose stories of everyday life enchant Mirror readers.

“Soulmates” Val and Colin


collect unknown)

Robbie holds father Colin by the hand as he retires from football at Derby in 2011 alongside sons Charlie and Freddie


Joe Meredith/Pinnacle)

Today they share their grief – and the hope that an effective treatment and cure for Alzheimer’s is not hopeless.

“You never think that’s going to happen to you,” Val said from her home in Wrexham, North Wales.

“They don’t look for signs of dementia and when they first appear it’s easier to look the other way.

“He went to meet his mate Billy and his son down at the local pub and when Billy’s son went to the bathroom and came back Colin turned around and said, ‘Who is that?’ Maybe that was the first warning.

Robbie Savage’s mother, Val Savage


Julian Hamilton/Daily Mirror)

“When Robert and his brother Jonathan were playing football, he would drive them everywhere to make sure they got to training and games, but people noticed Col’s driving had become erratic and asked if he was fit to drive .

“It’s so hard to ask a proud husband and father to get tested for diseases that have no cure, but when we went to the doctor he asked Col to draw a clock face – a simple test of cognitive ability and a Indicator of early onset dementia.

“His overall score indicated that further testing was needed.

“It’s so sad when you find out where this is all going.”

Robbie Savage spoke up on the eve of the first “Dementia International”.


Daily Mirror/Andy Stenning)

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When England play their first game in 2022 under the Alzheimer’s Society banner, charities and doctors hope it will remove the stigma and cruel perception of dementia.

Robbie, 47, is now an ambassador for the Alzheimer’s Society and said: “Anyone who has had a history of Pick’s disease or Alzheimer’s in their household knows that it doesn’t just take one victim. Those left to care are also victims.

“I used to go to my dad and visit him knowing he would slink away gently, but many times he would look right through you without me recognizing him and I went home with tears in my eyes hazards.”

He continued, “Yet near the end, when my mum was with him, he seemed to be gesturing at the TV remote.

“She remarked that he had seen me on TV doing the halftime analysis for him BBCand he still recognized his son on the box.

“If your mom or dad is living with dementia and you’re reading this, give them a kiss and tell them you love them – because they won’t be here forever.”

Val recalled the physical toll of caring for her “soulmate” for 40 years and the bond of love that kept her by his side 24 hours a day.

“There’s really no other place you’d rather be,” she said. “And when he’s gone, you feel like a ship without a sail. But sometimes the ship gets hit by waves so big you think it’s going to capsize and you can’t go any further.

“I cared for Col 24 hours a day because I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way and I certainly wasn’t ready to put him in a nursing home. But one day when I was able to drive into town for a few hours to take a break, I collapsed and woke up in the hospital with the doctors looking down on me.

“One of them said, ‘You’ve taken on so much and you’re trying to get by on just two hours of sleep a day, your body is telling you it can’t take any more.’

“This is what Alzheimer’s can do to a family — it’s not just about the person killing it. Who takes care of the supervisors?

“They care 24/7 because you love them.

“But often when Col was dozing off and I spotted a bird in the yard, I’d stare at it and just wish it was me
Vogel so I could fly away for a few hours and enjoy the freedom.

“But at the same time there were moments and little routines that you couldn’t put a price on. Despite not being able to raise his head in the end, he would blink his eyes at the clock at 3 p.m. every afternoon because it was time to brush his teeth and shave him.

“He was able to solve Sudoku puzzles right up to the end. And he never lost his smile. When he broke into a smile, it made my day.”

  • The Alzheimer’s Society works with the FA to understand the causes of dementia and its risk factors, and funds world-class research to protect gamers for generations to come. If you or someone you know needs support, visit or call 0333 150 3456.

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