ROTHERHAM star Matt Crooks is motivated to be the best person he can and help disadvantaged young people by the tragic death of his best friend.
Jordan Sinnott died in January last year aged 25 after being attacked by three drunk and violent thugs in Retford, Nottinghamshire.
While two of the low-lifes are behind bars, left behind are grieving friends, family and loved ones.
Just a week after Sinnott’s funeral, his partner Kelly found out she was 12 weeks pregnant with their daughter Maisie.
The little girl has been cruelly robbed of her father, who never knew he was about to become a dad.
And Millers midfielder Crooks, 27, told SunSport: “Just knowing ‘Sin’ never got to learn about Maisie has made me think, ‘Don’t ever take your children for granted.’
“Me and my partner Ashleigh already have a two-year-old son Elias and we’re expecting our second – a girl – soon.
“I want to spend all my spare time with my kids and family. That is my priority.
“If anyone wants to be a better man, a better family man, a better husband, a better dad, a better friend, they need look no further than Jordan for inspiration.
“I strive to be all those things – and his memory will forever inspire me to be the best person I can possibly be.”
Crooks has just won the SkyBet Championship player-of-the-month award for a superb run of form in January.
It included two goals in a 3-3 humdinger with Stoke and another strike in a 3-0 win against Middlesbrough either side of the first anniversary of Sinnott’s untimely death. He dedicated those goals – and his award – to his friend.
The pair grew to become close after meeting each other aged 14 when they both joined Huddersfield on the same day.
Ironically, they were also both released by the Terriers on the same day in 2015.
Crooks went on to play for Accrington, Rangers and Northampton before joining the Millers in 2019.
And Sinnott played for Chesterfield in the EFL and non-league sides Altrincham, Halifax, Alfreton and Matlock, where he was contracted at the time of his death.
The first thing the Rotherham midfielder sees each morning is a photo of his old pal.
In his bedroom is a photo of Sinnott with Crooks’ baby boy Elias on his first birthday next to a bigger one of the Millers ace kissing his son.
Crooks and his partner used to spend a lot of time with Sinnott and his girlfriend – making all four of them close.
They even went on holiday together to Majorca.
He said: “Me and Sin used to often go on holiday. I’m so happy we spent his last summer together.
“We went to two weddings, had two holidays in Majorca and Ibiza and went to a stag do.
“I will cherish those memories forever.”
Both Crooks and his partner have continued to remain in close contact with Sinnott’s girlfriend and her baby daughter.
He said: “At the weekend my missus went for a socially-distanced walk with Kelly.
“She’s on her own with Maisie. We try to keep her spirits up. She’s a strong young lady – she’s doing really well.
“I’m trying to be the best ‘uncle’ I can for Maisie now and to protect and look out for her. I hope she knows I’m always here for her.”
Crooks is inspired to help others after setting up a charity to leave a lasting legacy in memory for his friend.
The Jordan Sinnott Foundation’s mission statement is apt – helping people through sport.
Anyone can apply for grant funding. It is for youngsters aged between five and 21 and for individuals or teams who need funding for sports-related activity.
It could be an application from parents for money towards paying for a school trip or a pair of football boots they cannot afford for example. The Foundation is also going to help homeless people too.
Crook said: “The family asked the football community to send Sinnott 25 shirts so they could be displayed at his funeral and then be donated to under-privileged youngsters.
“Clubs and sports personalities up and down the country sent them in and more than 900 were received in the end.
“People like Steven Gerrard, Harry Maguire, Jordan Henderson and Reece James supported it.
“We’ve already sent out a load to Malawi and, post-Covid, Kit Aid are going to send the vast majority of them across the globe.
“A short time after the funeral I was telling my missus I wanted to do something because I didn’t want Sin to just be forgotten.
“We decided to set up the Foundation with the idea of representing everything he was about.
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“Sport was his life and we thought that would be a good route to go down.
“We want to provide financial assistance and provide help through the power of sport and activities.
“Sport is a big thing in people’s lives. It doesn’t matter what background you are from, you can become anything you want to be.
“We thought if we can help people enjoy sport or be successful in it through Jordan’s name it would be fantastic. That would leave a lasting legacy fitting of a great person.”
More than 1,000 people attending Sinnott’s funeral speaks volumes about how he captured people’s hearts with his happy life-and-soul personality.
Crooks added: “I read recently it shows the kind of person you are by not how many friends you have but how many people turn up at your funeral. That made me smile.
“I stood there and saw how many people attended and it made me emotional.”
Finally, asked what he misses about his friend most, Crooks said: “Just him being there for a chat. I just miss his presence, whether it be by text or FaceTime, him being with me.
“It’s been very hard but I’m determined his legacy will live on.”
For more information about either applying for a grant or donating towards The Jordan Sinnott Foundation, please visit js25.co.uk
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