FA Cup: Stacey Freeman on why males speaking about their feelings is a power

Stacey Freeman (centre) wears a white wristband in reminiscence of pal Connor Saunders

When Stacey Freeman steps out to face Stockport County in one of many largest FA Cup video games in Stamford’s historical past this weekend, he’ll look as much as the sky and keep in mind his pal who was killed on an evening out.

The previous actuality TV contestant wears a white wristband in reminiscence of Connor Saunders, who died from head accidents after being attacked on the street.

“We performed soccer collectively, went to the identical faculty, shared the identical mates,” says Freeman, who broke down in tears when he appeared within the E4 actuality present Shipwreckedexternal-link in 2019.

The 28-year-old defender desires to encourage males to open up about their emotions.

“You do not really say how a lot you like somebody till they’re gone,” says Freeman, who is ready to line up for Northern Premier League Division One Midlands facet Stamford at Edgeley Park within the fourth qualifying spherical on Saturday.

“It had a big effect on our lives within the pal group.”

Freeman, a former mannequin and physique double, says males speaking about their feelings is a power – not a weak point.

Earlier than showing on actuality TV, he struggled to open up however says the present taught him to talk out about his emotions.

“By no means bottle issues up and really feel snug being you,” he says.

Stacey Freeman (right) with Tottenham defender Ben Davies
As a part of his work as a mannequin, Stacey Freeman (proper) acted a physique double for Tottenham defender Ben Davies for an advert. “Individuals suppose it’s a must to look precisely the identical,” says Freeman. “You do not. They needed to edit out the tattoos on my arm.”

‘I did not care about crying on TV’

“I grew up boxing with older brothers. I understand how to deal with myself however there I used to be crying on tv.”

Freeman is recalling the second he broke down on the set of Shipwrecked, the present set on the pristine seashores of the Prepare dinner Islands that includes duties, eliminations and blazing rows.

He had been tasked with sending two individuals residence and needed to determine who to choose.

“I used to be crying as a result of these individuals had been having an excellent time and I had linked with them,” he says. “I used to be pondering to myself ‘I have been crying for a stable 15-20 minutes and it will be on nationwide TV’.

“I wasn’t scared how I might be portrayed. Being on Shipwrecked unlocked part of me I by no means knew existed.

“It made me realise I’m an emotional particular person. What’s the issue with crying and displaying your feelings?

“Previous to the present I struggled to open up. Rising up, I attempted to be a troublesome man. I would break up with a woman and never be bothered.”

Freeman’s pal Connor was tragically killed by only one punch in Brighton in 2012.external-link He was 19. 9 years on, former Lewes, Eastbourne Borough and Whitehawk participant Freeman will get emotional speaking about him.

The wristband he wears throughout matches options Connor’s initials and favorite shirt quantity – in addition to the variety of lives he saved by donating his organs.

“He made the selfless choice on the age of 16 to grow to be an organ donor. Due to that he saved 5 lives,” says Freeman.

“Each single recreation I say a little bit prayer in my head for Connor.”

Stamford defender Stacey Freeman
Stacey Freeman is one win away from the FA Cup first spherical with Stamford, who began this season’s competitors within the additional preliminary spherical

‘I used to be punched within the face’

Six years after Connor’s passing, Freeman was assaulted whereas on an evening out in Brighton.

He was celebrating together with his team-mates at Lewes after studying he was about to be supplied a contract with Stevenage following a trial on the League Two membership.

The contract didn’t materialise. Freeman suffered an ankle damage through the incident in 2018 which required prolonged remedy.

“I used to be devastated on the time,” he says.

Freeman, who studied criminology at college in the USA, provides: “Somebody referred to as my title and as I turned I used to be punched within the face.

“A police officer who intervened landed on my ankle. I awoke the subsequent morning with my foot the scale of a rugby ball.

“A number of days earlier I had performed an in-house recreation for Stevenage and received a telephone name from the recruitment officer saying they had been going to supply me one thing.

“The provide by no means got here.”

Stamford’s FA Cup run started on 7 August with a 2-0 win at Oadby City in entrance of 60 followers within the additional preliminary spherical. Their 5 wins to achieve the fourth qualifying spherical embody a 2-1 victory at Telford – who play two tiers above. Boss Graham Drury is in his third spell in control of the membership, who’re nicknamed the Daniels. He guided them to the primary spherical in 2016-17 after beating Wrexham – from three leagues above – within the fourth qualifying spherical earlier than dropping 3-0 at League Two Hartlepool.
Three of their 11 targets in FA Cup qualifying have come from winger Cosmos Matwasa, who has attracted from golf equipment at a better stage. Stamford have earned no less than £16,944 in prize cash from this season’s run. Stamford’s staff contains 40-year-old defender Jon Challinor, who helped York Metropolis win promotion to the Soccer League in 2012. He additionally performed in York’s FA Trophy closing win over Newport at Wembley the identical season.

‘I am ceaselessly grateful’

Freeman emerged from Shipwrecked with hundreds extra Instagram followers and a modelling contract that took him to Cape City, South Africa, for 3 months.

Ex-reality TV stars have warned concerning the affect of being on a actuality TV present can have on psychological well being.

Freeman, nevertheless, says his 5 weeks on Shipwrecked proved a “life-changing” expertise as he discovered to open up about his emotions.

“It taught me gratitude and a lot about myself. For that I am ceaselessly grateful,” he provides.

Two years on from the programme being aired, he has no plans to look on actuality TV once more.

Darren Freeman celebrates scoring for Brighton & Hove Albion
Stacey Freeman’s dad Darren scored a hat-trick in opposition to Mansfield in Brighton & Hove Albion’s first league recreation at Withdean Stadium – a council-owned athletics monitor – in 1999

He has since moved from the south coast to Lincolnshire to be together with his girlfriend, Terri. The couple have introduced their engagement, whereas Freeman has stopped modelling to focus on operating his recruitment company specialising in building and engineering.

His newest membership Stamford – who play within the eighth tier of English soccer and are the final remaining staff that began this season’s FA Cup on the additional preliminary spherical stage – is a world away from the Prepare dinner Islands, the place Freeman chased fame and fortune.

“I’ve put all that behind me,” he says.

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