BRAVE youngster Joseph Kendrick became Wigan Athletic’s perfect lucky charm as he led the team out onto the Wembley pitch before their FA Cup final triumph.
Joseph, who celebrated his fourth birthday on Thursday, suffers from the extremely rare genetic disorder Non-Ketotic Hyperglycinemia (NKH) and was chosen to be the club’s mascot to help raise awareness of the condition.
In poignant scenes transmitted across the world, Latics skipper Emmerson Boyce held Joseph in his arms throughout the pre-match formalities.
Joseph is the inspiration behind our Joseph’s Goal campaign, launched by the Wigan Evening Post last year, to help raise funds for research into NKH.
And the day proved to be an emotional one for his proud parents, our Latics correspondent Paul and his wife Emma, who accompanied Joseph and captain Boyce onto the pitch.
Emma said: “Paul and I had not planned who would go out with Joseph and we had arranged so that Emmerson would push his wheelchair out.
“But at the last minute he said he would like to carry Joseph and lifted him out of his chair, he was so good with him, we’re so grateful.
“In the end I went out and walking out onto the pitch, I was like a walking tingle. It was amazing to see Joe’s reaction out there, he was moving his head looking for the lights and the sounds.
“Joe doesn’t normally move his head around like that, I was watching him like mad, but I could see he was just so aware of everything.”
Since Joseph’s Goal started, the campaign has been backed by stars of the sporting world and the money raised has made a tangible difference with experts at the University of Colorado being able to employ another member of staff to research NKH as a result.
Both Latics and Warriors players are ambassadors for the charity and the Kendricks have been overwhelmed with the backing they have received. Paul, who quickly had to revert to his professional persona to report on the match, said: “It just shows what kind of man Emmerson Boyce is. And what a club Wigan Athletic is for giving us this opportunity.
“We had wheeled Joe out in the rehearsal but it was Boycey who just said he wanted to take him on.
“We were just taken aback and thought how amazing that gesture is. That image will have gone around the world. What an impact it will have. Wigan Athletic’s captain carrying Joe out, it’s unbelieveable.
“All the City players went down the line and were shaking hands and I could see Joe’s face taking it all in, I had a lump in my throat. Just amazing. I’m a very proud dad.”
Emma now hopes that the exposure the campaign has received from Saturday will benefit research into NKH in the future.
She added: “To think that so many people will have seen Joseph’s Goal and will be aware of NKH because of today is fantastic.
“I have already been contacted on our Facebook site from parents of children who have NKH saying how wonderful it is to get this exposure.
“And now Joseph is known as the FA Cup lucky mascot, I’ve also had lots of fans come up to me saying that he’s got to go to every game now starting with Tuesday’s game at Arsenal.”