Last week we all got the terrible news that our friend and former SHA staff member Michael Forbes had passed away aged 64.
Mick was such a charismatic character who was always smiling and cracking jokes, brightening up every room he went into. Forbsey was a much loved member of the SHA family that touched the lives of so many of us and he will be sadly missed.
Mick was a massive sports fan and a huge SWFC supporter, he spent many years coaching football and was passionate about the game. He even coached Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy in his days at Stocksbridge - a story which I never really believed until Vardy sent Mick a special signed shirt on his 60th birthday, which Mick met with a cheeky "I told you so" grin towards me. As well as football, Mick was a big fan of snooker and was incredibly knowledgeable about the sport. Mick even refereed an exhibition game with Alex 'Hurricane' Higgins at Trickshots.
Mick was with the SHA from the very start, even before SNIPS sessions were running, and watched the academy grow and develop into what it is today. I'm sure he would be very proud of what the academy has achieved and will continue to achieve in the future. Long time friend of our founder Stephen Harrison MBE and his family, Mick was always there to help make the academy a success.
Mick first joined the academy back in 2007 when SHA moved into its first home at Trickshots in Hillsborough. Forbsey spent many years as a doorman and bouncer at various places notably the famous Roxy's nightclub, so joined the Trickshots team initially to help with matchday security. Being a massive snooker fan and an excellent snooker player Mick soon found himself playing with and training the Trickshots members. Everybody in Trickshots used to love being around Mick, battling with him both on the snooker table and with banter. He truly made that place special, with a fun, competitive and welcoming atmosphere that everybody enjoyed.
As SHA first started supporting people with special needs Mick was heavily involved in the running of the adult disability group. Everybody that attended that group really loved to chat and joke around with Forbsey. His great character really helped to cement SHA as a place where people could find support and friendship and have a really great time. I remember when I first met Forbsey, I was 11 years old and my older brother Johnny attended the adult disability group. He loved going to snooker for the sole reason that he could go and banter with Mick, they would play and chat together for hours and there would always be the sound of raucous laughter coming from their table. My brother will always remember Mick's famous line: "oooh wheres this going!?" every time he was about to make a fluke. I can still hear the memorable sound of them cracking jokes and telling stories. Stories that my brother still talks about to this day . I think that is what I will always remember the most about Forbsey - his constant laughter filling up the room. He had a massive heart and he truly cared about everybody at the academy.
SHA grew and changed but Mick was always the constant. No matter where the academy was or who came and went, Mick was always there laughing loudly and joking with the members. SHA moved to Hillsborough Snooker Club and began running SNIPS sessions for children with special needs and Mick was there bringing his signature character with him. I remember in those years at Hillsborough Mick taught us how to play Spoof (which I always thought he invented - still do not know whether that's true or not) and he would get everybody involved playing the game, joking around and trying to guess each others colours. Spoof remains a favourite game of the children at SHA and we still like to play to wind each other up or trick each other about the cards we drew just like Mick taught us all those years ago.
As we grew up, SHA moved to the Green Room in High Green, Mick became more than just a mentor and snooker coach to us, he became a friend. Those Saturday mornings at the Green Room were some of the happiest moments of my childhood and that is largely down to Mick. Myself, Jack Butterley and 'Smiley Riley' Steer (a nickname coined by Forbsey) were the longest serving members of the academy at that point and we had grown up with Mick's guidance and banter for years. He would always teach us new games to play and as we got older, things got more competitive. Mick would lead us in games of poker, blackjack and hearts and beating him was always the most important aim. He would laugh and chuckle every time he dumped me out in hearts and would find the competition between myself, Jack and Riley to be so entertaining. These games with Mick were so much fun and we would play week in week out for years and never get bored of it - that is until we found a new source of intense competition - Riley's infamous monopoly. I realise now that it was not the games themselves that were so much fun – it was spending time with Mick, he always made us feel happy no matter what else was going on in our lives and he always made sure that everyone around him was having a great time.
Mick was also a great snooker player and coach. I would play for hours and hours with Mick at the Green Room and he would always be giving me guidance and tips on how to improve my game. My game progressed so much in these years and Mick was the person responsible, second only to Steve. Mick taught me how to play tactically and not to give into my impulses to go for the dramatic pot every time - a lesson he soon regretted when I would constantly trap him in snookers - culminating in a hilarious response where he complained that my finger marks on the table were all pointing the wrong way. As I got older, I became a better player and the games with Mick became more competitive, our relationship became more akin to friendship than mentorship.
Over the next few years I would bump into Forbsey around Hillsborough from time to time and he would always greet me with a huge smile and open arms and we would always chat and laugh about the old days, discuss football and snooker and joke about 'Smiley Riley'.
The fact that I will never bump into Forbsey again and we will never have a game of snooker or cards together again is heart-breaking but I am so thankful that I got to have those times with him as I was growing up, he taught me so much and had a real impact on me and everyone at the academy. Michael Forbes touched the lives of so many of us at SHA and I don't think he ever realised just how many people's lives he changed for better at the academy, so many of us have so many happy memories at SHA with Mick and for that he will always be a much-loved member of the SHA family and we will miss him dearly.
Thank you for everything Forbsey.