A Liverpool FC fan who sustained a serious brain injury in an attack by an Italian hooligan has spoken to the public for the first time since the assault.
Sean Cox, 54, raised his thumb and said “thank you” in a short video to all those who have supported him and his family since he suffered the life-changing injuries last year.
The video, taken as Mr Cox continues his rehabilitation in hospital in Ireland, comes ahead of a high-profile benefit match for him in Dublin on Friday night.
Tens of thousands of people are expected to turn out to see Liverpool and Ireland stars of yesteryear play to raise funds for the care he will need for the rest of his life.
Mr Cox, a former company director from the town of Dunboyne in Co Meath, suffered major head trauma when he was struck in a random assault by a masked AS Roma supporter outside Anfield last April ahead of a Champions League tie.
In February, Simone Mastrelli, 30, was jailed for three and half years after pleading guilty at Preston Crown Court to unlawfully and maliciously inflicting grievous bodily harm.
Father of three Mr Cox will mark a major milestone in his slow road to recovery when his family accompany him to see the charity match at the Aviva Stadium.
His wife Martina has expressed hope he will also one day return to Anfield.
On Friday, a Liverpool Legends team, managed by Sir Kenny Dalglish and captained by Ian Rush, will play an Irish Republic Legends side, managed by current international boss Mick McCarthy and captained by Robbie Keane, with proceeds going to Mr Cox’s rehabilitation fund.
He is being cared for in Ireland’s National Rehabilitation Hospital in Dun Laoghaire, near Dublin.
His wife said the game at the Aviva Stadium would be the first time her husband would be out in public since the attack.
“He’s going to be there which is great, I didn’t think it would happen a couple of months ago,” Mrs Cox told the Press Association on Wednesday.
“It’s a big milestone for us. He has been out of hospital for a couple of hours before, but this is him out in the public arena for the first time.
“It will be quite overwhelming for Sean. He’s been home but literally only in our house, and he’s been with family.
“At the beginning (after the attack) we didn’t know how things were going to pan out, so to have him at the match is really significant.
“Particular so for his brother Martin, because he travelled with him that day and they never got to see the match. It’s great for all of the family.”
Mrs Cox, 53, said she would love to see her husband one day well enough to return to his beloved Anfield.
“He regularly went to Anfield,” she said. “For him Anfield would have been a very safe place, because there had never been any incidents before. But unfortunately, that day there was.
“Down the line, when he’s well enough, I would say Martin would definitely love to get him there – I would too.
“I’m sure Liverpool Football Club would love to have him there, because he never got in that day.
Mr Cox, who turned 54 on Tuesday, will leave the facility in Dun Laoghaire in June, and will spend a number of months in a rehabilitation centre in the UK, with his family moving with him.
Mrs Cox, who lives with the couple’s three children, Jack, Shauna and Emma, in the family home in Dunboyne, said they have been overwhelmed by the generosity of people who have supported them.
Around 25,000 fans are expected to attend Friday’s match at the Aviva Stadium.
The Legends For Sean Cox match kicks off at 7.45pm on Friday, and tickets are available from Ticketmaster
To find out more about Mr Cox’s journey, or make a donation, visit www.supportsean.com