EXETER City's director of football Steve Perryman has spoken publicly for the first time since recovering from major heart surgery to thank the medical teams who saved his life.
The 60-year-old has been discharged from hospital and is recovering at home after being taken ill during the last home game of the season against Sheffield United at St James's Park last month. And he said he has been overwhelmed with the messages of support and cards from well-wishers.
Mr Perryman suffered from dissection of the aorta, which results in a lack of blood pumping to the heart.
The football legend needed a life-saving operation and spent three weeks in a coma in intensive care.
And he admits he may never have got the treatment he needed if it had not been for the instant medical support available within the ground.
He said the standard of care he continued to receive, at both the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital and Derriford Hospital in Plymouth, was the key to his recovery.
Speaking exclusively to the Echo, the record appearance holder for Tottenham Hotspur, who has worked with the Grecians for ten years, said: "I am getting stronger by the day and delighted to be home. I have got to go in for a check-up in a month's time but at the moment it is all positive." He said he felt a tightness in his chest early in the second half of the game.
"I knew something was wrong," he said.
"I had to try and get that across to people to get some help.
"I managed to raise the alarm with Andy Tilson (development coach), who ran to get the doctor on the bench. The speed at which I got treatment and where it happened possibly made all the difference.
"Who knows what would have happened if I was at home on a Friday night and my wife was in London.
"I was in such a public place with medical teams around me – the whole process started immediately. That was a major factor."
Mr Perryman was led away in full view of a packed crowd before being transferred to the RD&E.
His last memory of the incident was being in the ambulance with his daughter.
Once he arrived at Exeter a decision was made to transfer him to Plymouth, where he underwent an emergency operation.
Despite the operation being a success, he remained in a critical condition in intensive care and the club said at the time that he had a "big fight on his hands."
He credits the medical staff and decisions that were made on his behalf for coming through that fight. "To be where I am today a lot of things must have been done right and I am extremely grateful," he said.
"Once I got to hospital I always had a chance. That was the key thing. Because of where I was I was able to get the initial treatment in double-quick time and the amazing care just continued from there."
After three weeks he was taken off the life-support machine.
Despite a few complications he continued to improve and was moved to the high dependency unit at Derriford and then back to a ward at the RD&E.
"The medical staff everywhere were all brilliant – I cannot thank them enough," he added. "The surgeon was more of a rugby player with a slight allegiance to Bristol Rovers and the nurses and carers really are just angels.
"Both in Plymouth and Exeter the level of care – even at 3am – was just unbelievable.
"I am a bit cynical about a lot of things but when you have been through what I have and sampled the care on offer, there really is not a lot wrong.
"I am extremely grateful and anything I can do to help them in the future I will. Hopefully I was not too much of a drain on them.
"As good as everyone has been you still just want to get home. That was my first motivation.
"The second is to get a haircut. I was meant to get one on the afternoon of the game so you can imagine what it is like five or six weeks later."
Among the well-wishers to have got in contact are football legends Jimmy Greaves, Pat Jennings and Ossie Ardiles, along with many ordinary supporters from a range of clubs.
"I am amazed at the number of cards that were sent," he said. "Since I have got home I have looked through the messages I got on that night.
"Some were from people I don't even know as well as many people from the past who used it as a chance to get back in touch.
"To all the supporters out there I just want to say a big thank you for all the concern and messages.
"There is rivalry between Exeter and Plymouth but when health is concerned that is overridden.
"I had lots of messages from Plymouth fans and even Arsenal fans wishing me well."
Mr Perryman had good news for supporters about a return to the club – but urged them to be patient.
He said: "I just want to get back to it as soon as I can.
"I do not have any lingering heart or stress problems that will stop me returning to work but I have maybe not paid enough respect to my blood pressure over the last 15-20 years. That could have been a contributory factor.
"I have not got a weak heart in terms of recovery.
"There was a collapse in what serves blood to the heart. That has been put right.
"The main part of the recovery was for the work on the chest to get access for what needed to be done.
"I am not able to lift anything at the moment but will be as good as new in a few months."
He added: "Throughout it all everyone at the club has been terrific.
"They know I will be back to it as soon as I can. I am not going to rush anything but they know I am at the end of a phone.
"I will know when it is the right time to return.
"Obviously we were relegated last season and there are issues to face up to, but there are some very capable people at Exeter who can hold the fort while I am away.
"If I have learnt a lesson it is to take more care of myself.
"I don't feel like I have dodged a bullet or anything like that but I do feel lucky because of the circumstances."