A young British ex-pat whose promising football career was cut short by a sickening and unprovoked attack has met one of his childhood sporting heroes.
Danny Hodgson spent weeks in a coma fighting for life after he was attacked from behind and knocked unconscious outside Perth train station last September.
The 26-year-old spent seven months in hospital and still faces an uncertain future as his long road to recovery continues.
Danny Hodgson and his family met one of his lifelong heroes, Manchester United legend Denis Irwin in Perth last week
English Premier League heavyweights Manchester United have rallied behind the lifelong supporter since the life-changing incident with heartfelt video messages from superstar Christian Ronaldo and goalkeeper Dean Henderson, a childhood friend of Hodgson’s.
Hodgson’s reaction was priceless when he met Manchester United icon and childhood hero Denis Irwin at Optus Stadium last week.
The Red Devils legend signed jerseys and posed photos with Hodgson and his family before enjoying lunch together.
Irwin won 19 trophies with Manchester United, including their famous Premier League, FA Cup, and Champions League continental treble in 1998-1999.
Denis Irwin (second left) sat down to have lunch with Danny Hodgson (right), his family and girlfriend Jess (second right)
Mr Hodgson’s father, Peter revealed neither he nor Danny could not sleep the night before meeting the Irish legend.
‘We couldn’t sleep much it is like getting up on Christmas morning meeting Denis,’ he told Seven News.
‘To meet a legend like Denis is amazing. We’re over the moon.’
His son added: ‘I never thought I’d meet a treble player. It’s a pleasure to meet Denis and speak with him.’
Danny Hodgson faces an uncertain future following a one punch attack seven months ago. He’s pictured with girlfriend Jessica before the attack
Irwin was in Australia to meet with Australian-based fans ahead of Manchester United’s pre-season blockbuster clash against Aston Villa in Perth on July 23.
Irwin extended an invitation for Mr Hodgson and his family to attend the match and meet the team.
“It’s a miracle, finally getting to meet everyone,’ Mr Hodgson’s girlfriend Jess Pollock said.
Nicola Hodgson could not be any prouder of how far her son has come in the last seven months.
‘Getting to meet the legend Dennis Irwin and having lunch with him, what a honor for a lifelong fan,’ she wrote after last week’s meeting.
‘Not long until he gets to meet his childhood friend Dean Henderson his idol Christano Ronaldo and the rest of the Man United Team.
‘Once again thank you WA, Man United, Optus stadium for giving Danny more motivation to get well soon.’
Mr Hodgson’s attacker was recently sentenced to three years and eight months in juvenile detention.
His family recently shared footage of Danny Hodgson (pictured) kicking a soccer ball once again, seven months after one punch attack left his fighting for life
Footage of the moment that changed Mr Hodgson’s life forever was released by the court last month following the teen’s sentencing.
In the vision, the teen, who was aged 16 at the time, is seen speaking to an intoxicated Mr Hodgson, who was heading home after the end of season celebrations.
The pair are seen walking together as Mr Hodgson tries to shake the teen’s hand.
But moments later, the teen clenched his fist before hitting Mr Hodgson, knocking him to the ground where he hit his head and was rendered unconscious.
Judge Hylton Quail described him as taking part in ‘seven months of mayhem’ after moving to Perth, having once been a kid that never got into trouble.
The court heard he was subject to a 24-hour curfew at the time of the attack.
‘I was shocked about how Danny hit the ground and how somebody just ran away and left him,’ his mum Nicola told reporters after the sentencing.
His father added: ‘He (the teen) shouldn’t have been on the streets, he had so many cases against him that he shouldn’t have been walking, constantly committing crimes.
After the attack, the couple flew from across the world to be by their son’s side and haven’t left Australia since.
Mrs Hodgson has been sharing regular updates of her son’s journey to recovery on Facebook.
Nicola posted both images and video clips of Danny kicking the ball to his father while he’s supported by his partner Jessica and sister Abby.
He spent weeks in an induced coma after he was rushed to Royal Perth Hospital with severe head injuries and underwent emergency surgery for bleeding to the brain and a skull fracture.
Danny’s family (pictured) remain in Perth, seven months after they flew from the other side of the world to be by his hospital bedside as he fought for life. Danny is pictured far left before the attack
The personal trainer, originally from Cumbria in England’s north-west, then suffered severe brain haemorrhaging, which required more surgery and spent three months in intensive care.
Mr Hodgson was a talented striker who represented Great Britain at international level before moving to Australia at age 18 to progress his football career.
He played for ECU Joondalup in Western Australia’s National Premier League, where he won a premiership and the Golden Boot award as the leading goal scorer in 2020.
His mother recently recalled how the ‘unimaginable act of violence irrevocably changed’ her son’s future.
Former promising soccer star Danny Hodgson (pictured right) was on his way home after a night out with teammates when he was attacked from behind
‘Danny continues to amaze us every day and we are in awe of his courage and determination,’ she wrote.
‘But make no mistake. His recovery is slow, painful and emotionally and physically exhausting.
For every tiny bit of progress that bring us all tears of joy, there are struggles and setbacks that bring tears of sorrow.’
‘It is heartbreaking to contemplate all Danny has lost, and we have no way of knowing if he will ever walk again, let alone run out onto a football pitch and score a goal or even hold down a job.’