“I wake up and look forward to the day and then stop to see if I am still dreaming,” says the 24-year-old. There is a simple reason for his brief feeling that his life has strained belief. Joe is working for the club he loves, doing a job he loves.
He is a remarkable young man with an extraordinary story. He reaches for a cup of tea with his foot and proceeds to tell the tale of a life that has reached a wonderful fulfilment despite a profound disability.
“I was born with no arms,” Joe says simply. “I also have scoliosis of the spine.” He has become fantastically adept with his feet, working his phone between two toes as we speak. “My mum put things between my toes when I was young so I could learn to do things myself. The family even ask me to sort the computer out when they can’t.”
But Joe found that all his graft, his willingness to overcome hurdles and his strength of spirit could not quite find him a job. Then came Celtic FC Foundation’s Cashback Gateway to Employment project.
“I was told about it at the Job Centre,” says Joe who lives in Tollcross with his mum, dad, brother and sister. “I came along and was determined to get a place on the project and a job,” he says. He was given his chance. He took it with a sureness that would befit Henrik Larsson.
After completing the project, Joe was successful in gaining employment at Celtic Park as a Community Coach, and has now worked for Celtic FC Foundation for almost four years. “In and out of work, I’m getting better every day. I’ve already gained four coaching qualifications and I’m going for my fifth. I’m really grateful for this opportunity; I live and breathe Celtic and I want to do my best for the Club I support.”
Joe’s story is not just one of personal success. He is aware that he is now helping others. His disability gives him an empathy with some of the children who come to his coaching classes. They have various challenges and Joe says: “I understand them a bit more. I know where they are coming from. There was a kid who has Down’s Syndrome and she told her mum that she wanted to do football, not dancing, because I understood her. She said: ‘He just gets me, he knows how to help me’.”
He adds: “I suppose I just had patience with her. Perhaps she looked at me and thought that I had my problems and come through them.”
Perhaps, she was simply inspired. It is hard not to be when one is in the company of Joe Mearns.