On 25 January 2020, Matlock Town were set to play Mickleover Sports at the Don Amott Arena in a crucial Northern Premier League Derbyshire derby.
Sadly, this match never took place.
News had come through in the early hours of that Saturday morning that Matlock Town midfielder Jordan Sinnott had been found unconscious with a suspected fractured skull in Retford, Nottinghamshire, following an altercation in which he was brutally attacked.
Jordan was rushed to Northern General Hospital in Sheffield in a critical condition and despite the best efforts by doctors, Sinnott passed at 7pm on 25 January at the age of just 25 years old.
The tragic news shocked Jordan’s family, his friends, his football club and the footballing world.
We sat down with Town striker and extremely close friend of Jordan, Jon Stead, as we pay tribute to the life of Jordan Sinnott.
Jordan was born in Bradford and was a gifted footballer. As a youngster, he played for Shipley Juniors, Guiseley JFC and St Marys Menston before signing a scholarship with Huddersfield Town at 16 years old.
Jordan went on to captain the u18 team and was then offered a professional contract with the Terriers in 2012.
The Bradford born lad made his first-team debut under a year later in the fourth round of the FA Cup against Leicester City on 26 January 2013 and he would spend a total of eight years at Huddersfield Town.
The Start of a Friendship
It was at the West Yorkshire club where Jordan and Stead first met. Stead had begun his second spell with Huddersfield at the start of the 2013/14 season but immediately found himself out of favour with manager Mark Robins.
Being left out of the pre-season tour to Portugal turned out to be the beginning of a true friendship between Stead and Sinnott.
“For the pre-season, everybody had to give their passports for the tour and I handed my passport in and a couple of days later it was put back on my kit so I knew I wasn’t going to be travelling to Portugal with the first team,” Stead laughs.
“I stayed back and trained with the under 23s for a week and Jordan was part of that group and we struck up a good friendship.
Stead continues, “he was always smiling and would crack a joke while still being fully focused on making it as a footballer.
"He was a really good character to have in the dressing room, he would light up a room and his smile was infectious.”
On the pitch, Stead says Jordan was a “natural talent who made it look easy” and he became part of a tight-knit group that included Stead, Duane Holmes, Matt Crooks, Lloyd Allinson, Danny Ward and Alex Smithies.
Whether that be spending countless hours at each other's houses or taking trips away to Magaluf or Las Vegas, Sinnott would be part of the group, bringing that energy and smile.
“I always called him ‘Sin’ but we also nicknamed him the Duracell bunny,” Stead chuckles.
“You’d set him off and he’d just go. At 4am, we’d all be stumbling out of a club looking for food and then bed but Jordan would be wanting to know where was still open.
“The following morning, if we were away on holiday he’d be the one up at 8am, wide-eyed asking for a pint with his breakfast. It was incredible, he just seemed to carry on forever.”
Jordan also had some dance moves in his locker and was a “lover” of the 80s dance classics and true dancefloor fillers. Whether he had a drink in his hand or not, Jordan would be first on the dancefloor, no shame in sight.
The midfielder's stint at Huddersfield came to an end in 2015 and he went on to play for Altrincham, Halifax Town, Chesterfield, Alfreton Town and then Matlock Town before the gut-wrenching and unthinkable happened.
A Heartbreaking Tragedy
After leaving The Vine pub in Retford, Nottinghamshire, in the early hours of 25 January, Jordan was the victim of a violent and drunken attack following a misinterpreted joke.
The punches thrown by the attackers put Jordan in a critical condition and he was rushed to Northern General Hospital in Sheffield.
It was a matchday and Stead was gearing up to play for Harrogate against Wrexham in the National League when he got the call from his stepbrother, Al Lee, who told him that Jordan was in the hospital.
“I remember exactly where I was when Al rang,” Stead explains. “I was driving to the game and just as I'm getting to Wetherby Road, past the Kestrel pub, I get the call that Jordan was in the hospital.
“At that point, we didn’t really know how serious it actually was and there was the ‘he’ll be alright’ thought about it. Al did say he was in a bad way though and then everything was going through my mind, I’m filling up in the car thinking 'what I do now?'."
Stead told his stepbrother that he was starting against Wrexham and that it would be “very late to let everybody down”. Jordan was stable and Stead could do nothing at the time so decided to play the match but would check his phone at every opportunity in case there was an update.
The Town striker admits that the game was simply a blur.
“I played the game, and can't remember anything of it. My mind was completely elsewhere.
“I spoke to Thirs [Paul Thirlwell] and he told me straight away I could go and be with him. I knew Jordan would want me to play though and there was nothing I could do at the hospital as they weren’t too sure what was going to happen.
“After the game, I went into the changing rooms and checked my phone straight away. I had a couple of missed calls from Kelly (Jordan’s fiancé) and I rang back straight away. She told me to come down to Sheffield Hospital quickly.”
Stead now felt like he was now in a race against time to see his mate and he travelled from Harrogate to Sheffield in less than an hour.
“All the way there I was in and out of being in tears thinking about what was happening.
“I pulled up outside the hospital with my two stepbrothers and as we got there we saw Kelly and Jordan’s mum, Mel, at the door. I knew it wasn’t going to be a good ending.
“They took me straight in to see him and he was just there on his own in a room. It just looked like he was asleep. He was still all wired up and breathing with the machines so it was a really surreal way to see him. There were no marks on him, not battered and bruised, just laid there.”
Jordan very sadly passed at 7pm that night, leaving Mel and Ian without their son, Stead and his mates without their best pal and Kelly without her fiancée and soon-to-be father to their daughter, Maisie.
It was a heartbreaking period for everyone who knew Jordan, as Stead describes him as a “humble, lovely, happy and really kind lad you would just gravitate towards”.
The humble lad from Bradford was also a caring one and a registered organ donor. After his death, Jordan helped save at least seven lives, while soldiers and other burn victims benefitted from Jordan’s decision after receiving skin grafts.
"The Toughest Period of my Life"
The days and weeks that followed were unimaginably tough for Jordan’s family and friends, Stead being no exception.
Although he admits he’s never been a crier or an emotional person, the passing of such a close mate at such a young age brought out a different side in him.
“I’ve never had to experience something like that before. To have a really close mate die so suddenly and so young, it was new to me.
“I had a very tough first week back in training, I think the Gaffer mentioned to me how quiet I was. It was almost like I was on autopilot and a zombie, not really thinking about anything.
“My thoughts were with Kelly, Ian and Mel, thinking they’ve got it bad. How does Kelly move on now? Jordan was her life moving forward and now she’s on her own.
"It was just a horrible thing to happen and definitely the toughest period of my life by far.”
Shirts for Jordan
Following Jordan’s death, his brother, Tom, appealed for football clubs to donate shirts to appear at the funeral.
The campaign ‘Shirts for Jordan’ gained support from all over the world as clubs donated shirts with ‘Sinnott 25’ on the back. Rangers, Atletico Madrid, and Leeds United were just three of 862 shirts to be received.
Other sports, including cricket, American football and basketball, were also represented in the collection and some were sent from locations such as Bahrain, Qatar, Thailand, the Philippines and even the Chagos Archipelago, a string of islands in the Indian Ocean.
Jordan’s funeral was held at Bradford City’s stadium, Valley Parade on 4 March 2020. Hundreds of people attend and all the shirts that had been donated were hanging from the ceiling, creating a truly remarkable spectacle.
“Seeing all the shirts at the funeral in Bradford’s stadium, it was incredible,” Stead says with a smile. “They had them all strung up which needed about a kilometre of wire. It really was stunning, they had done a fantastic job.”
“High profile players had got involved and then for me it was great to see the village and kid teams’ shirts being sent in, that was brilliant.”
The majority of the shirts were then donated to Comic Relief and sent to children across the world who could then wear them.
An Emotional Triumph at Wembley
For Stead, emotions would then be ramped up again just a couple of months later as he and his Town teammates made it to Wembley to compete in the National League Promotion final.
Stead had taken down a cut out of Jordan, who was in the stand behind the goal, watching his mate help make history for the football club.
The striker came on with 30 minutes to go with Town winning 2-1 and he admits that his mate was on his mind, especially when he had a great chance to score at the end Sinnott was sat in.
“When I came on I was thinking about Jordan.” I had a real chance to score and as soon as it left my foot I thought it was in but as it bounced off the turf it just stayed and didn’t turn.
“I would have been straight into the stand to Jordan’s cutout if it had gone in."
At the full-time whistle, an emotional Stead made his way up to Jordan’s cut out and sat with him to show off his winners’ medal.
It had been a tough six months for Stead and the win at Wembley brought out a range of feelings for the 38-year-old.
“I was still grieving at this point but I was jubilant with the promotion," he admits. "Half of me was thinking ‘why am I happy?’. It was a really weird mix of emotions.
“There was everything in one and it’s mad how you can feel so many things. From one morning feeling like crap and then suddenly feeling like I’m top of the world, it was so up and down.”
Creating a Legacy
The Jordan Sinnott Foundation Trust was set up in honour of Jordan soon after he passed and it’s there to keep his name going and create a real legacy.
The foundation provides financial assistance to vulnerable and underprivileged children and young adults to help them access sports, leisure and exercise.
Stead admits that the foundation has been an “eye-opener” for everyone as a lot of work goes into making everything run smoothly.
"It's been a full-time commitment” but something everyone is really enjoying being a part of," Stead says.
“We’re all happy with the pace at which it’s going at, we’re raising funds, we’re making a difference but if anything, we could probably do with some more applications.
“We've got a little bit of money set aside now and we need people to start coming and asking for it.”
The Coronavirus pandemic has put a halt on some events and fundraisers that were planned but a charity football match is set to take place in August against a West Yorkshire Police team and then there's a golf day and annual ball to come as well.
The charity has also had support from some big names including Arsenal legend Ian Wright, who is a patron for the Trust.
He invited Mel onto his podcast ‘Everyday People' and it was a chance for Mel to tell her story and get the word out about the Foundation Trust.
Wright has since donated a signed shirt to be auctioned and Stead is thankful that big names like Wright are wanting to support the work they’re doing.
“It’s a big thing to get him on as a patron. He was really interested and supportive of the story and everything that has happened. It gives us that awareness but we’re not going to go mad with it though and try to run before we can walk.
“With grassroots sports reopening, clubs will need some help. Even if it’s a Sunday League team that needs a kit and 15 shirts, we can provide that. It’s what the charity is there for.”
Anyone wanting to find out more about the Jordan Sinnott Foundation Trust can do so by visiting https://www.js25.co.uk/
and by following @JSFTrust on Twitter and Instagram.
Jordan’s memory will live on, not only through the charity but through the gift he gave to Kelly, their beautiful daughter Maisie Jordan Sinnott.
Rest in Peace, Jordan ‘Sin’ Sinnott.