STEWART REGAN was a very powerful man – managing director of the Football League Championship, successively chief executive of Yorkshire County Cricket Club and of the Scottish FA and a key player in UEFA.

Now he finds himself near-impotent. His 89-year-old father Steve, once the sergeant in charge of Durham Constabulary’s dog section and a nationally renowned dog trainer, has advanced dementia and is in a care home near Crook, unable even to recognise his son.

It’s too late medically to do anything for his dad, says Stewart, but now he wants to do something about Alzheimer’s disease.

A week on Sunday he and his daughter Caitlin, 25, will tackle the Manchester Marathon on April 7 in support of the Alzheimer’s Society, the £500 funding target already exceeded several times over.

Donors range from Sir Rod Stewart to former Sunderland chairman Sir Bob Murray and include Colin Graves, chairman of the English Cricket Board.

“Alzheimer’s disease hurts like hell when it involves your loved ones,” says Stewart. “We’ve witnessed the withering decline of dad’s appetite, his appearance, his personality and, saddest of all, his ability to recognise the closest of family members.

“You don’t really understand the disease, you try not to see the symptoms, you just put it down to old age.

“What brought it home to me was a couple of times when my dad went to the shops with a list and came back with two lots of everything.

“He’s got back to the car, put the stuff in the boot, wondered what he was doing at the shops and did it all again. That’s not losing your memory, that’s something more serious.

“Physically he was quite fit, only stopped driving when he was nearly 85. Mum was compensating for him, perhaps covering for him so that we wouldn’t be too worried, but he had a fall in 2015 and was really shaken up.

“The three of us children took turns to look after him at night. I was up four or five times because he was. My mother’s now 91 and we realised that she was having to do that whenever we weren’t there. That was the tipping point, we decided he needed specialist care.

“We can’t change what’s going to happen to my dad, but they believe they can find ways of slowing down the disease and that might give more time to future generations.

“Someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s every three minutes, the biggest killer in the country. It’s the greatest health and social care challenge of our time.”

WE meet for a 9 30 breakfast in The Horse Shoe in Crook, now a Wetherspoons pub but the place where, 32 years earlier, Stewart had had his stag night.

Part of what’s now the extended pub, he recalls, was Jackie Foster’s the butcher’s. “He’d do his butchering out the back, come out covered in blood.”

Already that morning he’d run six miles around a park near his home in Leeds. Afterwards he’d visit his parents, now in opposite rooms in the care home, up the bank in Billy Row.

“Mum still goes in to give dad a kiss every morning,” says Stewart. “I think he knows who she is.”

Stewart grew up in the Crook area, was the local athletics club’s junior champion at the age of 11, spent 19 years in senior posts in the brewing industry before taking the Football League job in 2002.

Caitlin was a member of her Harrogate school team which won the national schools cross country title in successive years.

Stewart joined her on a marathon last year, didn’t think he’d finish, clocked a minute over four hours but hadn’t sought sponsors. This time he hopes to beat four hours.

“Everyone seems to have a family member who’s been affected by Alzheimer’s,” he says. “I’ve seen my dad. I just felt that I had to do something.”

HE’D won the SFA’s top job in 2010, left last February – probably what they call mutual consent – after the failure to persuade Northern Ireland manager Martin O’Neill to cross the sea to Glasgow.

Critics also blamed him for Scotland’s failure to qualify for the finals of any major tournament during his tenure, which seemed a mite unfair.

“If I hadn’t been having breakfast in Crook this morning, I might have been having it in Kazakhstan,” he says and might, with hindsight, be glad of some calorie replenishment at Messrs Wetherspoon.

“I can look back and smile at what’s going on in Scotland, the madness never stops. As CEO you’re in the eye of the storm, you can never please all of the people all of the time.”

He recalls “challenging headwinds” – there was even a referees’ strike early on his watch – though some of the Scottish sports pages were content to quote the English bard.

“Was ever there such a tale of woe than the SFA and its CEO?” wrote one.

No one likes to read negative things about themselves, says Stewart, but is reminded of a conversation he had with Gordon Strachan. “He had a really hard time at Celtic, constantly under pressure, said you should imagine someone sitting in his living room in his shell suit with a can of Tennant’s Super and a laptop.

“You ask yourself if you really want to worry about that sort of thing. I developed a really thick skin at the Scottish FA.”

FINDING unaccustomed time on his hands, he re-joined a running club then formed Ascend Global Consultancy – upwardly mobile and very much worldwide.

Already he’s working with UEFA and with a chap in Aberdeen to introduce technology yet more greatly into refereeing. He’s also co-operating with celebrated North-East athlete and broadcaster Brendan Foster on an initiative to persuade GPs to prescribe fitness not pharmaceuticals.

It’s something about which he’s greatly passionate.

Now 71, Foster was chancellor of Leeds Metropolitan University when first they met, discovering a shared concern over Britain’s obesity epidemic and shortage of sports facilities.

“At Peases West, where we used to train as kids, there are now weeds growing through the track. No one uses it, a sin and a shame. Crook swimming baths have gone, too, just a field now. Many people would feel so much better if they just took a little exercise, and they wouldn’t need so much medication.

“Look at the advertising for food – 50 per cent off this, extra large portions of that. We’re trying to get to people whose idea of exercise is to fiddle with their Playstation.”

They hope to persuade a group of GPs in Leeds to trial their initiative, a 12-week programme, and to work with Park Runs, the hugely popular 5k exercise that usually takes place on Saturday mornings.

“The way we’re going is going to create a huge problem for the NHS. A lot of it’s self-inflicted, yet people go round blaming government or whatever.”

He and Caitlin would still greatly sponsorship for their marathon endeavours. Donations can be made on-line at