William Faulkner's son's meningitis scare puts life in perspective for Ards midfielder
Saturday November 2, 2013 is a day that William Faulkner will never forget. Scoring a goal at Windsor Park just two minutes into the game to put your team 1-0 up against Linfield is enough to make any day memorable.
It was events that were happening elsewhere at the same time though that made it unforgettable for the Ards midfielder.
Faulkner was summoned off the pitch just before half-time pitch after the club received an urgent message about the health of his five-month-old son Luca, who had been rushed to the Royal Victoria Hospital with a suspected case of meningitis.
Three weeks on, however, both father and son are smiling again, with Luca back home and Willie celebrating a new contract with Ards.
"It's still a bit of a blur. Even now it hasn't really sank in," said Faulkner, reflecting on that fateful afternoon.
"At first, I didn't understand what was going on. I saw the manager on the pitch calling me off and I couldn't understand why he wanted to take me off, as I'd just scored a goal, but from the moment it was explained to me, everything just seemed to happen so quickly.
"The next thing I knew I was racing to the hospital to see my son and we ended up staying there for a week.
"When you're in that sort of situation your mind is all over the place, you don't even think about what you're doing.
"After we got home from the hospital on the Friday, it was straight into work and playing football again, so I haven't even really had time to take stock of everything that happened."
Luca was diagnosed with meningococcal meningitis and septicaemia. William and his partner Melissa spent six nights in the Royal as their son recovered from the life threatening illness.
"It was scary for us because you hear all the horror stories about meningitis, but the doctors explained it to us and they were all very positive," said Shankill Road man Faulkner.
"They caught it early, which made a big difference.
"At first, Luca which just lying there, which isn't like him at all, but by Wednesday the antibiotics started to help him and we were able to take him home on the Friday."
A fortnight after being discharged from hospital, Luca is back to his usual happy self.
And things are going well for dad too, with his goal tally for the season now sitting at nine in all competitions, including a brace against Glenavon in the League Cup 10 days ago.
"Luca is in great form now. He's sitting up and crawling about as if nothing ever happened. He's like a new boy," said Faulkner.
"The support we've got from the club has been outstanding.
"The manager and the chairman have both been fantastic, while Luca got a few wee gifts from the fans and the players. It really meant a lot to us."
And the influence of those fans played a part in Faulkner extending his deal with the club until the end of next season.
"The fans are brilliant at Ards, they even clap you off when you've got beat," said Faulkner, who joined the club from Dundela in the summer.
"Their support made signing a new contract an easy decision and I'm delighted to be staying at the club for another season.
"The manager (Niall Currie, pictured) approached me with the idea of extending my deal and between him and the chairman (Brian Adams) we got it sorted out very quickly.
"I hadn't even considered moving to another club because as far as I'm concerned I'm still working to establish myself with Ards.
"At the end of the day I've just stepped up from the Championship and I've only played 15 games in the Premiership, so I'm just concentrating on helping Ards to establish themselves in the top division again."
Faulkner is now Ards' leading goalscorer. His ratio of seven league goals in 14 appearances is as impressive as anyone else's stats.
And his recent success in front of goal down is inspired by Currie, the club's colourful manager.
"It's all down to the way the manager lets us play," said Faulkner
"He gives the midfield freedom to attack, and just tells us to go out onto the field and enjoy ourselves.
"We went to Windsor Park the other week and played an attacking 4-4-2 – I don't think many teams do that.
"When we take to the field we know we're going to score goals.
"I've just been fortunate that I'm the one who has been in the right place to score.
"We've a good team here and I'm confident that we will climb up the table as the season goes on."