Page last updated at 13:58 GMT, Wednesday, 5 August 2009 14:58 UK

Player back after coma recovery

Robert Hughes before and after
Robert Hughes before the incident - and after, amnesic and paralysed

A footballer from south London left in a coma after he was attacked in Crete has completed his remarkable recovery by landing a professional contract.

Former Oxford United player Robert Hughes, 28, remembers nothing of the last decade after being stamped on in June 2008.

Greek doctors said he was 48 hours from death and warned he would be paralysed.

But Mr Hughes' comeback was complete as he played for Welling United on trial - and now he is signing for the club.

It is a scenario that was unimaginable a year ago, when Mr Hughes, from Croydon, south London, had to relearn everything - even how to eat and move.

Robbie has always lived and breathed football. I couldn't take that away - he has already lost so much
Maggie Hughes

He suffered complete amnesia and is still unable to recall anything from the last 10 years apart from his love for football.

He cannot recall playing for Oxford United at all.

His mother Maggie Hughes, 55, said: "We went back to the simple things in life.

"We did things like putting gum in his mouth to help him chew, lifting his arms and moving his fingers to make him use them.

"It took time but eventually we got him to do it himself."

Mr Hughes was in intensive care in Crete for two weeks and Mrs Hughes has no doubt that football brought him back from the brink.

Maggie and Robert Hughes
Mrs Hughes rushed to be by her son's bedside

She said: "When we were in hospital we wanted him to do anything - flick an eyelash, move a finger.

"I stayed there for weeks waiting for him to move."

Then Mrs Hughes heard a commotion by her son's bed and ran to see what was happening.

She pushed her way through staff surrounding the bed to see Mr Hughes, still in a coma but kicking an imaginary football.

"I could not believe it", Mrs Hughes said. "I stayed there for weeks praying for him to move, and when he does it is a football manoeuvre.

"From that moment on I knew he was going to make it."

Mr Hughes then defied expectations by learning to walk and playing football once more.

Robert Hughes learning how to walk
Mr Hughes' faced long rehabilitation to walk - let alone play football

His mother said: "I am sure I will be slated by people who say: 'If it was my boy I would not let him play.'

"You never get over the fear - I know what could happen if he gets the wrong knock.

"But Robbie has always lived and breathed football. I couldn't take that away - he has already lost so much."

On Tuesday, he played a part in Welling United's 3-2 friendly defeat to Millwall.

And he impressed sufficiently to be offered a contract by the Conference South team.

A "thrilled" Mrs Hughes said: "The next headline should read 'Hughesy - well in!'

"Even I forget sometimes how far Rob has come.

"But this can tell others out there - don't give up."

The family continue to hope Mr Hughes' attackers will be brought to justice.

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