Football is a beautiful game, not just on the pitch but off the field of play too, and there is no finer example than the friendship that Tranmere Rovers defender Mark Ellis has formed with seven-year-old Meghan Kewley.
Meghan, who has cerebral palsy, lives with her mum, Amanda and dad, Michael in Nantwich, Cheshire, and last weekend attended their first Tranmere Rovers' game as a family to watch the 1-1 draw against Colchester United.
The family live near Mark and got to know him six months ago and their relationship has continued to grow from strength to strength.
Meghan's condition is non-verbal, but that has not stopped her from forming a heartwarming bond with Mark and her dad Michael, revealed how her life has been transformed.
Explaining how their friendship developed, Michael admitted that Mark has gone above and beyond to interact with his daughter.
Michael said: “I met Mark about six months ago when he was walking past the house, he lives round the corner from where I live and saw my daughter playing and interacted with Meghan straight away, which a lot of people don’t do that, so it was nice.
“Meghan has never done that with anybody, and I think the way he approached her and has been with her shows how much of a genuine guy he is. We think very highly of Mark and I know Meghan does too.
Mark, who signed for Tranmere in the summer, says that treating everybody the same in life is a value that he carries with him every day.
The centre back said: “I think it is a case of people don’t know what is wrong with her, don’t really want to approach or to ask questions about what is up with her, but for me, you treat everybody the same and I think that is important in life.
“I’ve met Mick and Amanda, they have been great towards me as well and you couldn’t ask anymore.”
After deciding to write to the Wirral Globe about his daughter’s and Mark's friendship, Michael was astounded with the responses he received on social media when their story was highlighted locally.
Michael continued: “Me and my wife were talking saying how can we repay Mark?
"Because it’s not just Meghan, anybody who has got a disabled child, it is quite a lonely life for that child so I wrote to the Wirral Globe not expecting anything, I got in contact with the Liverpool Echo and they asked if we minded doing a story, then Mark sent me a Tweet, he was unaware of all of this, saying ‘my Twitter has gone mad, I’ve got more than 2000 likes!'
“I just wanted people to know what he has done, Mark probably thinks he is just doing the normal thing, but it is more than that. It is a massive thing what he did, and what he has continued to do, and we’ve become good friends as well so that is nice."
And following their story gaining local coverage through the Wirral Globe and the Liverpool Echo, the family were guests at Prenton Park to watch Rovers against the U's.
It was a visit which has made the family supporters of the Club, and Michael is looking forward to cheering Micky Mellon's team on throughout the course of this season. Megan and her family met the manager and the Chairman, Mark Palios after the final whistle.
Meghan's story links in nicely with Tranmere Rovers' popular #SWA2 programme, which encourages young people to support the Club with a number of fantastic initiatives.
Michael went onto thank Tranmere’s players, staff and supporters for making their day so enjoyable.
He concluded: “The Club, the supporters, everybody has been fantastic to us. Meghan has really enjoyed herself, so now you’ve got three more supporters and we’ll make the journey to Prenton Park on a more regular basis.
“We’ve got the flag for her going, and it’s nice to see her so happy and content, it is just amazing, so hats off to Tranmere Rovers and the players, staff and the supporters.”
To find out all about the #SWA2 programme, please click here.