A six-year-old boy who nearly lost his leg to a rare bone disease has been hailed the ”next David Beckham” – after being signed by Premier League giants Arsenal.
Fletcher Toll was struck down with the bone-eating infection osteomyelitis at the age of two which paralysed his right leg, leaving him unable to walk.
The rare disease ate through his hip leaving a hole the size of five pence piece and doctors feared they might have to amputate his leg.
But after treatment at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn, Norfolk, he made a remarkable recovery and was soon kicking a football around again.
He was first spotted by scouts when he was four-years-old and a year later beat 40,000 football hopefuls to join the Arsenal Soccer School.
Coaches now predict that striker Fletcher, who has already bagged scores of goals in kids tournaments, will be a future Premier League star.
Mum Lisa, 34, of King’s Lynn, described Fletcher’s recovery as ”amazing”.
She said: ”When he was just a baby he couldn’t move his right leg. The hospital said it was a rare infection which eats the bone.
”It had already made a hole the size of a 5p piece in his hip bone. They said that the worst case scenario was the leg would have been amputated.
”As far as the doctors were concerned, they didn’t think that Fletcher would ever be able to play football or walk so it’s an amazing turnaround.”
Proud dad Rikki, 28, a former semi-pro footballer, handed Fletcher his first football when he began walking aged nine-months-old.
He quickly spotted his son’s footballing skills and gave him a run out with a community scheme for youngsters in King’s Lynn when he was four-years-old.
A year later stunned Arsenal youth scouts recognised his talent but he was below the age limit.
Delighted coaches finally signed Fletcher after his sixth birthday when he impressed ahead of 40,000 other trialists.
Rikki said: ”When he first started kicking a ball he was natural.
”I took the ball away from him after he was ill but when he was well again we played in the garden and I’ve never seen a kid his age kick the ball like that.
”Arsenal soccer school coaches have told me he’s the best player they’ve ever seen at his age. They’ve never seen a six-year-old as good as my son.”
Despite his Arsenal connections Fletcher has followed in his dad’s footsteps and is an avid supporter of Premier League rivals Manchester United.
Fletcher trains once a week at the soccer school in Spalding, Lincs., with scout and former professional footballer Mark Angel.
Mr Angel said: ”I see him having an excellent future in the professional game.
”His dribbling skills are excellent and his corners and free-kicks remind me of a young David Beckham.”