AS SAD and shocking as the news of Fraser Franks’ enforced retirement undoubtedly is, the caring and compassionate way that Newport County AFC have handled the matter is a credit to the club.

Franks’ career is over at the age of 28 after doctors advised him that a heart issue, discovered by chance after he was admitted to hospital with flu-like symptoms, was too serious for him to continue playing.

It’s devastating news for a young man to receive, but everyone at the club is doing all they can to soften the blow.

The Exiles players all clubbed together to send Franks and his heavily pregnant wife Stacey on a short break to Tenerife before the news was made public.

And the club has announced that fans will be able to pay to have their name printed on next season’s third shirt, with the proceeds used to support Franks.

“My family and I are beyond words for how grateful we are to the football club for this amazing gesture,” said the defender, who made 34 appearances for County after arriving from Stevenage last summer.

“I don’t know what the future holds going forward yet but this will be a huge help when it comes to supporting my family and dealing with the next stage of my life.

“I’ve been blown away by the support from the County fans and it’s shown me just how special and unique this football club is.”

There are also plans to stage a friendly match this summer to help ease the financial burden for Franks.

The club has certainly come a long way since 2008, when a previous regime opted to sack Ian Hillier after the captain had broken his leg while working as a tree surgeon’s assistant.

County’s actions over the last few weeks have won widespread praise from the footballing community and should help manager Michael Flynn to convince new recruits that this is a club they will want to play for.

South Wales Argus:

“The club are doing what they can to support Fraser,” said Flynn, who was asked if the situation had brought his squad closer together.

“I don’t think it can get much tighter, if I’m being totally honest,” was his response.

“It just goes to show what kind of group we are that the boys paid for him to go on holiday with his wife. That’s the kind of community spirit and team spirit we have at this club.

“It shows what kind of atmosphere I try to bring to the club. Credit to the boys – they came up with the idea themselves. It’s a great gesture.”

Teammates Joe Day and Josh Sheehan have both spoken about the news being a motivating factor as they look to force their way into the League Two play-offs.

“It’s a bit of inspiration for us,” said Day. “He’ll be willing us on, and it does bring you together as a group. Hopefully we can do it for Fraser.”

Sheehan added: “It’s something we’ll always be thinking about because it is a very bad situation for him.

“He’s got a lot to look forward to with a little on the way, but it will always be a motivation for us – to do it for him.”

The chase for a top-seven spot is very much still in for County and it’s great that we can still concentrate on the football, because the story could so easily have had a tragic ending.

The case of Fabrice Muamba, who collapsed on the pitch at White Hart Lane in 2012 and was thankfully revived after his heart stopped for an astonishing 78 minutes, is one that all football fans will remember.

Former Newcastle United star Cheick Tiote and ex-West Ham United and Manchester City midfielder Marc-Vivien Foé were sadly not so lucky.

“I'm massively lucky that this infection could have saved my life,” admitted Franks when he spoke to BBC Wales.

“I'm grateful it got found and nothing too serious happened to me whilst I was on the pitch.

“I know a lot of people have suffered this sort of thing and it has been fatal in cases so I am very lucky and very appreciative that it did get picked up when it did.”

He can now look forward to becoming a father and planning for a post-playing career in football, and County should be applauded for doing everything they can for the Franks family.

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