Dan McLellan's meteoric ascent to representing England at the Powerchair World Cup at the tender age of 14

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Dan McLellan's meteoric ascent to representing England at the Powerchair World Cup at the tender age of 14
Dan McLellan, a player for England Powerchair and Aspire, talks about his path from beginning powerchair football to competing in the 2023 FIPFA Powerchair Football World Cup in Sydney, Australia.
I am quite excited about the World Cup. I've been keeping track of the days!

The reality that I will be participating in my first World Cup at the age of 14 won't really sink in until the first whistle against Argentina.

There's nothing like being called up to serve your nation. It's an emotion that defies explanation.

My mother and brother are coming over to support me when my dad, who is coming over to take care of me, leaves.

I couldn't accomplish what I do without my family. Yes, you have the obvious things, like getting me into my chair and getting me where I need to go, but you also have all the other things, like their emotional support. It can be mentally taxing to play at such a high level at such a young age, so it's crucial to have support systems in place that can help me put things in perspective and stop beating myself up.

I recall being in awe of them all when I watched us win the EUROs in 2019. I distinctly thought the players were excellent.

I believe that watching them all play in the EURO final and then celebrate as a team and with their families made me want to play for England even though I wasn't very into wheelchair football at the time or playing at a very high level.

After being accepted into the England talent pipeline in 2022, I participated in my first game for the development squad in April. In May of this year, I made my senior team debut at the Home Nations competition in Dublin.

It seemed strange to be wearing an England shirt and lining up before my first game against Scotland. Although I had previously played for the development team, I was quite proud to be a senior international.

If you love football as much as I do and are born with a condition that is diagnosed at an early age, I believe the most grievous thing you go through is the belief that you will never have the opportunity to "make it" and represent your nation. However, I've succeeded in achieving it!

I was given a diagnosis of Ullrich congenital muscular dystrophy when I was two years old. Although I could walk all the time at first, I have been off my feet all the time since I was eight years old.

Sadly, there isn't a treatment for my illness at the moment, so all I can do is try to prevent it from becoming worse by stretching a lot and doing other similar things.

Many of my muscles are so tight that I am unable to extend my arms or legs to a great degree, and I also have poor head control, weak neck strength, and poor hand dexterity.

At the age of eight, Dan McLellan began playing powerchair football.

I have always liked football, just like every other kid, but I was never able to play it as well as they did, so early in life, things were pretty difficult for me.

My parents would constantly try to assist me in my game, but they would only ever seat me on the goal so I could goal hang or go in goal and sit down, then attempt to dive to make saves while sitting down.

I could play, but it felt like I was only playing partially, and I missed the exhilaration of playing football in a competitive setting.

When I began playing powerchair football, I discovered that. The first time I played it, I had fun, but it was strange for me since I didn't fall in love with it right away and want to play it all the time. Even though I didn't center my life around it and was still upset about not being able to play football in the mainstream at the time, I did enjoy it.

But as I continued to grow, I got better and began to play in the leagues.

My dad was going to pick up a new chair for me from the Aspire Powerchair Football Club because they were selling some when I started playing for my local team in Northamptonshire when I was eight years old. He watched a session that was in progress and the person who had picked up the chair asked if I wanted to come down for a session.

Dan is only 14 years old, but he has already won the Premiership and represented England internationally.

I was hesitant to go to my first session, which is why I didn't enjoy it. However, even though I enjoyed the second session, my parents made me go again since they believed it was in my best interests.

I received a call on Friday night, one week after my second session, asking if I might play on the Saturday and Sunday with the third team. I was ecstatic even though at that time I wasn't really sure what I was supposed to accomplish or how to follow the regulations!

After playing for Evergreen for a season, I transferred to Muscle Warriors, the second team at the Aspire center, because I performed well on the first weekend. However, COVID struck midway through the season.

We won all five of our games over our final five-game weekend before COVID, and although though I am not one of the team's best players, I believe that if I continue to put in the necessary effort and get better, I may actually be good at this.

After COVID, I continued my training, and a while later, my dad got a call from Jon Bolding, the coach and captain of Aspire, asking if I wanted to be on the bench for the FA Disability Cup at St. George's Park!

Jon wanted to give me the opportunity to play with the first team since he had been impressed with me throughout training.

For the adolescent, Dan's trip to St. George's Park for the FA Disability Cup final was motivational.

For the adolescent, Dan's trip to St. George's Park for the FA Disability Cup final was motivational.

I had never been to St. George's Park before, and seeing all the changing rooms and other amenities was such an incredible experience that made me realize that this is what I really wanted to pursue.

Even though I was on the bench for the game, I still enjoyed being with the team. A few weeks later, I was asked whether I would like to become a permanent member of the Aspire first team, and the answer was obvious.

We finished second in the league and I was tied for third most goals scored in my debut season in the Premiership (2021–2022), which was awesome. I also took home the Young Player of the Year title.

We added Brad Bates to our roster last season, and we all got better together, which helped us win the Premiership by six points. In our most recent game against West Bromwich Albion, I scored the game-winning goal in the last seconds, and I lost my mind!

It's safe to say that this year has been fantastic because at the end of the previous season, I received both my World Cup invitation and my first senior call-up.

For me, meeting Jon Bolding at the age of eleven or twelve was a major deal. Though I've tried in the past, I can never express how much I appreciate him.

Especially when I joined the England squad for the first time, Jon is an amazing role model and source of encouragement for me. He provides the younger players with a great deal of consolation. Had he not taken a chance on me, I don't think any of this would have occurred.

Since Chris Gordon and Jon Bolding are two of the greatest players in the world and the two more experienced members of the England team, I believe that most aspiring players look up to them the most.

They are an incredible support system for the other players on the team and serve as excellent role models for us younger players.

Despite his youth, Dan has already made a significant contribution to the England Powerchair squad.

Despite his youth, Dan has already made a significant contribution to the England Powerchair squad.

I used to wish I wasn't crippled so I could play football when I was younger. Playing for England, however, has completely changed my perspective. Now, I am actually glad to be disabled in a way because, while I could still walk and run, I wouldn't have had the opportunity to accomplish all I have in powerchair football or made all of my incredible friends.

Therefore, I would advise any other young people considering powerchair football to give it a try, even if you don't think you'll enjoy it as much as I didn't.

Additionally, I'd advise sticking with it. You must give it time and refrain from shutting it down immediately.

These days, wheelchair football literally occupies 90% of my life. Powerchair football ranks among my top three priorities in life, along with my family and friends, of course.

I'm not sure what I would do without it. It is my passion, my talent, my interest, and a place where I have made friends. If I am having a rough week, I look forward to going there. I'm in love.