The manager of Ilkley ladies’ football team is celebrating gaining a doctorate after a rollercoaster journey to achieve it.

Tony Gill was awarded his PhD at Leeds University after being inspired to study by his good friend Keith Cooper, who sadly passed away before he could finish his study.

“He was one of the nice guys, but was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease and passed away at the age of 66,” said Mr Gill who has since raised more than £1,000 towards motor neurone disease.

The study saw a number of life- changing events occur and the process nearly came to an end in 2011, when Mr Gill endured four lots of surgery on his knees, a change of jobs and the loss of three people close to his heart, while he was still reeling from the blow of losing Keith the previous year.

His partner Claire saw her mum pass away and then Tony lost both his parents. “That was probably the lowest point of all, and the point at which I didn’t think I could carry on,” he said. “I really struggled at that time to find the motivation to carry on.

“However, sometimes when you are at your lowest you gain that inner strength to keep going and achieve something that could make a difference to others.

“When I graduated there was this huge sense of relief tinged with sadness – it was a very emotional day.”

Family support at the graduation included his partner Claire, older sister Barbara Anne, and his five children – Rebecca, 19, Joshua, 18, Daniel, 14, Phoebe, seven and Oscar, five.

The PhD, which is entitled ‘The Lived Experiences of People with Schizophrenia Prescribed Atypical Antipsychotic Medication’, looks at the lived experiences of people with schizophrenia who are prescribed the newer atypical medication as opposed to the older forms of typical antipsychotic medication.

Mr Gill added: “I would like to be able to pass on my findings, attend a few conferences and talk about what people go through with schizophrenia and what I have found out in my PhD.

“I am currently working on a research paper which I hope will be published soon, and really I would like to see their stories told in a book so we can help challenge issues of stigma about schizophrenia.”