FOR many people, football is a way of life.

Supporters follow their teams home and away, week in week out, no matter what the result.

The beautiful game, and sport generally, has a way of transcending the pitch and becoming much more than a game to many people.

Simon, better known as Si, Collinson is one of those people.

He follows his beloved Colchester United up and down the country, even writing a Gazette column in the sports pages.

Mr Collinson also used to be a nifty player himself before a serious injury whilst serving in the army brought an end to his amateur career.

Now, despite having part of his right leg amputated and replaced with a prosthetic, he is getting back into game as the coach of Lawford Ladies.

The 36-year-old said: "I was injured in 2017 whilst serving in Canada.

"It was a spinal injury and down to the complications I lost feeling down my right hand side.

"Since the injury I have tried different types of rehab trying to get myself better.

"But at the end of May I had to have surgery to have my leg above the right ankle amputated. The operation was a last resort."

As he awaits medical discharge from the forces, Mr Collinson could have been forgiven for letting everything get the better of him.

But rather than give in, or give up on his sporting dreams, he was determined to get back and involved in the game he loves more than anything.

"It is one of those things, you have to make out what life throws at you," he said.

"The operation released a lot of my mental fatigue.

"Getting into coaching has been brilliant for me. It has been life changing and has given me a whole new lease of life.

"I am an example of how football and sport can help improve people's mental health.

"Leaving the army will be hard but my footballing life will now take over.

"Playing Sunday league is one thing but getting into coaching is another. This is another level."

Of course, being a football coach is almost as much commitment as serving in the British Army.

As well as giving up his Saturdays, and sometimes midweek evenings, to watch the U's, he'll now be spending Sundays down at Lawford's School Lane ground for matches and there again for training sessions during the week.

His wife Jessica and son George, two, will also share the rest of his time.

Mr Collinson, who is primarily wheelchair mobile, says he is looking forward to getting stuck in and making a name for himself at the football club.

He said: "At the end of the day the club did not know me from Adam. The way the club has supported me has been amazing.

"They have helped me get settled and bring in a friend as my assistant. It is a really nice atmosphere at the club.

"There are some clubs where the girls team feels like a sideshow to the men's team, but not here.

"The team are all fantastic as well, they're a lovely group of girls."

Lawford Ladies are in Eastern Region Division One South and after a strong performance last year, they're hoping to mount a promotion challenge this season.

Mr Collinson said: "Last season was the girls' first season in the league but they got to the final of the Essex Women's Trophy.

"We need to build up the foundations and challenge for promotion this season.

"We play at step six football and there are only two promotions away from the women's national league.

"It is quite a big opportunity to impress and with the right support it is something which is achievable."

The former wing back or winger will be given plenty of support from those at the club including a U's icon.

Mr Collinson said: "Steve Foley's daughter plays for the team. He is a U's legend so it is amazing to have him around.

"He comes and watches the coaching sessions and he gives me a bit of advice."

Mr Collinson added: "Without a doubt the women's game is on the up.

"The level of the crowds shown during the World Cup shows it is growing.

"Some people will always be sceptical, but I do think more people are getting behind it."