Book Review: Destined for Faith by Matthew Siddle

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Updated November 15, 2017
Book Review: Destined for Faith by Matthew Siddle

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Matthew Siddle seemed destined to become a professional footballer. His earliest memories were of practising with a ball outside his home, and by the age of eight he was moved up from a lower year at school to play for the senior team. Before long he was playing for amateur teams, with the ambition to one day play professionally for Liverpool.

Scoring a goal was an amazing feeling. Seeing the net of the goal bulge and hearing your teammates cheer behind you was a great sensation. Your goal rewarded the efforts of the entire team so everyone was happy with you, especially if you d scored a really crucial goal in a critical game. It was one of the happiest times of my life.-- However, Matthew's destiny takes a different turn when he finds himself at the heart of the Hillsborough disaster, struggling for his own survival and seeing the injuries and deaths of fellow football supporters first hand. The trauma of the event has severe consequences, turning Matthew's dream of becoming a professional footballer into a delusion. Soon he finds himself in hospital, fighting for his emotional and physical freedom...

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Destined For Faith
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Sometimes people's life stories can really blow you away. Sometimes it is the exotic nature of a persons lifestyle and at other times it can be the way that God slowly reveals Himself in someone's life. With the terrible events from the Hillsborough disaster currently in the news because the families and relatives have been pushing for justice for those who died, this book is being released at an opportune time. Matthew Siddle was at the match that fateful day, a lifelong Liverpool supporter he avoided being crushed at the Stadium by being lifted out of the stand by the people above. He was one of the 'lucky' ones, but at the same time this event had a huge impact on his life.

This book starts with charting his path to that event in Sheffield, exploring his love for football from an early age, through to the first time of standing in the Kop. Getting to know the people around him, regular supporters at the ground, he is shocked when he discovers that one of girls that used to stand in a particular place had fallen off a motorbike and died. This was his first real brush with the death of someone he knew. The same week his Gran came to live with the family because she was dying of cancer. Suddenly confronted by death Matthew starts drinking and that, along with running with the football fans got him through. All this time he had continued to play football himself, although drinking and smoking dented his fitness, he enjoyed the game, even dreaming of playing professionally one day, but lacking the application to make that happen.

Then in April 1989 the tragedy changed his life. The horror that he witnessed and understanding of the brevity of life hit him, due to sit his A-Levels he decided that life was too short and should be lived, he dropped one of his subjects and then started partying harder. Drink became his best friend, and while away in Canada he tried Cocaine once, but decided it wasn't for him. Eventually after a few years of university enjoying the lifestyle he ended up with peer pressure driving him to smoke Cannabis along with more drinking. As he turned 24 his already crumbling world fell apart completely. Waking from a nightmare about having AIDS he was so disturbed he decided that killing himself would save everyone so in his delusion he smashed a glass into his face hoping to snap himself out of the thought process, and when that didn't work he tried to suffocate himself.

University was over for now and treatment began, being admitted into a psychiatric hospital for treatment - this was to be par for the course for a number of years to come. As he tries to rebuild his life a different delusion sets in, in this state he believed that Bill Shankly and his Grandad spoke to him telling him he should give up drinking and smoking and play football and they would arrange for him to play for his beloved team, and he should give his wages to the Hillsborough Campaign to get justice for those who had died. The delusion got worse from that point on, feeling destined to play for Liverpool he even approached Terry Dolan, Hull City manager at the time to try and get a try-out!

Matthew spent a fair amount of time in and out of Mental Health units and was give a diagnosis of "Bipolar Affectiv Disorder" otherwise known as manic depression and this saw him in a pattern for years of hospital admissions and eventually saw him live in supported housing. After a couple of years without a major incident he moved into his own flat, occasionally at this point he would have meltdowns and it was during one of these he felt God speaking to him, and then he turned on the radio and heard a message about the death and resurrection of Jesus. In his manic episode he hadn't realised that it was Easter Sunday. That day his life changed, he decided that alcohol was affecting his medication, so he stopped drinking completely, and now 8 years on he's happily married with 2 stepchildren.

This is an eye-opening book. Having lived with a family member in a similar situation and in and out of mental health wards I can empathise with Matthew, knowing some of that pain as one of the supporting family. I am so happy for him and the change that God has made in his life too. It is such an encouragement to see that change is possible. The only issue I have with this book and the way that the story is told is that it almost glosses over the 8 years since his conversion. He mentions a few ways that his life has changed, getting baptised and giving his testimony, getting married etc, but it really could do with more detail. Does he still suffer, how does this impact his faith etc. There is a few sentences in the last couple of paragraphs about there are still problems but this doesn't really answer those questions.

People in churches suffer from mental health, people in churches take their own lives through suicide, people in churches have depression. God can heal them, but often it seems like He chooses not to, and that is a struggle. If Matthew's walk has taken him through some of this then it could help those who need to know that other people are in the same situation and fighting similar battles and to know that there is hope.

I love that Matthew has shared his story, it's very real, very down to earth and painfully honest. It's written in a compelling style and you will want to know how his situation has changed to get to today. The message is positive and conveys a simple Gospel truth as he experienced it. Extremely readable and good to give to someone who have family members going through similar things, lovers of football or someone who loves to hear about other people's stories.

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