Matt Grimes: Swansea City captain on how his own experiences make him proud to wear cancer shirt

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Matt Grimes with his fiancee Angela - who was pregnant at the time with daughter Myla - and her late grandmother Anne
Matt Grimes with his fiancee Angela – who was pregnant at the time with daughter Myla – and her late grandmother Anne

Matt Grimes stood alongside fiancée Angela James in the hospital car park, waving goodbye to her dying grandfather Alwyn.

It was the last time they saw Alwyn before he died of cancer three years ago, at a time when the Covid-19 pandemic meant visitors were not allowed at Swansea’s Singleton Hospital.

In December 2023, Alwyn’s widow Anne also died of cancer, with Grimes missing the funeral because he was travelling with Swansea City for their Championship fixture at Birmingham City.

“My fiancée was very close with them all her life,” Grimes says.

“They lived in Saundersfoot. We always got down when we could on a day off.

“Cancer affects so many people. It’s not just immediate family, it’s the people around. It’s such a horrible thing to have to deal with for the people who are closest.”

Alwyn’s passing was made even more painful because it coincided with the pandemic.

“We drove to Singleton Hospital to see him,” added Grimes.

“It was the time when you couldn’t let people in because of Covid.

“We parked up in the car park, we rang him and he walked to the window. We just gave him a wave outside his hospital room.

“That was the last time we saw him. It was obviously a horrible, horrible experience.

“I think there were six people allowed at the funeral. In hindsight with all the stuff that came out later, it is just barbaric to be honest.”

Matt Grimes' fiancee Angela with her late grandparents
Matt Grimes’ fiancee Angela with her late grandparents Anne and Alwyn

Having been diagnosed with terminal cancer last autumn, Anne passed away shortly before Christmas.

“She was at home. She just slept more and more each day and eventually she passed,” Grimes said.

“Without sounding awful, it’s probably the nicest way it can happen. Everyone was prepared for it and she didn’t feel any pain.

“I spent a fair bit of time with them. But it’s more about my fiancée and her family. I just tried to be there to support them where I could and try to make a horrible situation a little bit easier.”

Grimes is not the only Swansea player whose loved ones have been affected by cancer. In fact – as in wider society – there are similar stories to be heard all around the dressing room.

Hence Swansea’s squad reacted with a universal nod of approval when the Championship club launched this season’s third kit.

The all-pink design – which features spots of various colours which represent some common types of cancer – is part of a ‘Tackling Cancer Together’ campaign Swansea are promoting alongside the charity Maggie’s.

“It’s a shirt we are immensely proud to wear,” Grimes said.

“We want to raise as much awareness as possible. Everyone needs support and the support Maggie’s give people who are going through the toughest of times is unbelievable.”

The campaign will be celebrated when Swansea host Plymouth Argyle on Saturday with, among other things, players wearing the names of family members or friends affected by cancer on their warm-up shirts.

When the focus turns to football, Swansea will go in search of a first league win under Luke Williams, who takes charge of his fourth Championship game.

After a draw at Birmingham, Williams’ Swans have lost fairly comprehensively to two of the division’s stand-out sides, Southampton and Leicester City.

The new head coach’s one win to date was in the FA Cup against Morecambe, which teed up what proved to be a demoralising 5-0 defeat at Bournemouth in round four.

With Hull City, Leeds United, Ipswich Town and Sunderland to come in the next four fixtures after this weekend, a home game against a Plymouth side who are yet to win away all season looks like one Swansea will earmark as an opportunity for three points.

Matt Grimes wearing Swansea's pink third kit at Birmingham City last month
Matt Grimes wearing Swansea’s pink third kit at Birmingham City last month

Nine years after arriving in Wales from Exeter City, Grimes has seen a few Swansea managers come and go – and is convinced Williams will make a significant impact in time.

“We are in a rebuilding process again,” the 28-year-old says.

“The new manager has come in and he is implementing his ideas.

“We just need to keep progressing in our performances and hopefully we’ll get to a place where the fans love watching and we enjoy playing.

“I don’t think we can put a timeframe on it, but just now the detail and information we are taking on is second to none.

“We will get there. When we do, it will be brilliant.”