A MAN from Peterlee who lost his leg in a horror crash 15 years ago has battled back from “absolute rock bottom” to get a spot on the England Amputees Football team.

Sonny Rockett was only 19 when his car aquaplaned on a dual carriageway between Newton Aycliffe and Darlington in January 2006 – which saw the engine of the vehicle travel through the main shell of the car.

Despite the car turning into a mess of car parts, wires and plumes of smoke, Sonny miraculously managed to crawl from the wreck, but collapsed on his left leg and was rushed to hospital with serious injuries.

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After seven operations on his leg, the teen didn’t know whether he’d be able to walk again – let alone continue the lifestyle he’d built himself playing sport and being active.

Then, the “dreaded” news came from the doctor – a decision that’s unimaginable for most people. Doctors working on Sonny gave him the option – to remove his left leg just aboved the knee or leave it and make it more susceptible to infection further down the line.

The Northern Echo: Sonny miraculously crawled out of this wreck but collapsed on his left leg and was rushed to hospital.Sonny miraculously crawled out of this wreck but collapsed on his left leg and was rushed to hospital.

Surprisingly, Sonny, now 35, calls the decision “a no brainer” and opted for doctors to remove his left leg – citing that he’d be able to walk again in a year, aided by crutches.

This ‘never say die’ attitude from Sonny has taken him far in life so far. After taking just eight months to become mobile again after having his leg removed, he returned to work in McDonald’s – building his way to become a manager by the time he left.

Looking back at his recovery after his accident, Sonny told the Northern Echo: “For a lot of people, they’ll never have to make that call on whether to save their leg. It sounds strange but I was so confident that I wanted them to operate, I just wanted to be back out of the hospital, out with my friends, down the pub and active again.

“To get back to work within eight months, some told me I was mad, some told me it was a miracle. I think getting back to work made me excel and not think about the fact I’d lost my leg. Some days, I feel like I’m still able-bodied.”

The Northern Echo: Sonny has impressed since joining amputee football and was scouted during a recent tournament in Nantwich.Sonny has impressed since joining amputee football and was scouted during a recent tournament in Nantwich.

In the 16 years since the accident, Sonny has worked at various jobs, before settling for the one he has now at Royal Mail.

While things were going right at work, though, Sonny admits that drinking too much, eating too much and ‘over socialising' contributed to him “ballooning up” and putting on six stone.

“I had the mentality that life was too short after the crash, but life was going to get shorter if I wasn’t careful – I’d have died of diabetes if I carried on the way I was going,” he now admits.

The Northern Echo: Newcastle United's amputee squad before a recent match.Newcastle United's amputee squad before a recent match.

At this stage, Sonny was looking for a way to get back to the “active and outgoing” man that he’d become growing up, and that’s when he found the Newcastle United Amputee Football Club in 2018.

For the last three years, Sonny has cut out the alcohol, trains several times a week and has lost three and a half stone – something that he thought he’d never achieve.

That’s not all, though. After impressing for the Newcastle amputee side at a tournament in Nantwich in October, Sonny has now been scouted by the England Football Amputee team.

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As part of his recent selection, he’s been assigned a player support officer, a football analyst and sports nutritionist, which is “worlds away” from what he thought he could ever achieve.

While the road hasn’t been exactly smooth for Sonny, he’s had support along the way. This was seen earlier this year when the 35-year-old had to raise £750 to go towards kit, equipment, and training facilities.

With the help of family, friends, and local people, he achieved his fundraising target in just 24 hours.

Now that he’s got the financial backing, Sonny will start the next chapter of his life at the start of 2022 – but has set his sights on a bigger goal. The 35-year-old has eyed a place in the England Amputees squad for the World Cup in 2022, which takes place in Turkey.

The Northern Echo: After his England call-up, Sonny is keen to make the amputee World Cup in 2022.After his England call-up, Sonny is keen to make the amputee World Cup in 2022.

Sonny said: “This big journey is bigger than anything I ever thought was possible. To play for your country is a huge honour, but why can’t I dream to play at the World Cup?

“Fundraising the £750 earlier this year was massive and to do it in the fashion that I did after only 24 hours is huge. Before the accident, I always liked to play football, but to go from a point thinking that I’d never walk again, playing football at this level is incredible.

“Everyone has noticed a difference in my confidence and how I approach things positively since taking up amputee football – the change in mindset can do so much.”

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