AN Ilminster student's dreams of playing football with his friends may soon become a reality as he undergoes surgery to help him walk correctly.
Harry Rutter, aged 16, of Blackdown View was born with cerebral palsy, a condition which in his case severely restricts movement in the left side of his body.
He has always been able to walk but with considerable difficulty, and doctors told him the way he moved would eventually lead to curvature of the spine.
In February, he had an operation on his leg at Musgrove Park Hospital, Taunton, to prevent this. The surgery left him temporarily relying on a wheelchair and mobility scooter.
There is more surgery for the student of Holyrood School, Chard, on Thursday but he remains defiant.
Harry, a huge football fan, said: "I'm not treated any differently at school by my friends anyway, but it would be brilliant to be able to play football with them instead of just watching from the sidelines.
"I'm studying registered materials, cooking, humanities and PE, but it is a pain because I leave school in the afternoons and quite often miss the double lessons.
"I'm not really allowed to play football on any of the teams, because of health and safety, which is annoying."
Harry is a firm supporter of the Ilminster Youth Football team and rarely misses a match.
In 2008, his support for them was recognised when he was presented with an award at the Rotary Club of Ilminster's Young People of the Year awards.
He is also a staunch Yeovil Town FC fan. Last week, player-manager Terry Skiverton presented him with a signed club shirt and a copy of Hendford To Huish Park.
The gifts were a "good luck" gesture from the club for Harry's future operations.
He said: "I wasn't expecting that presentation at all and it was a bit embarrassing, but a nice surprise all the same.
"I joked about selling the gifts on eBay and making a bit of cash, but really the shirt will be going in a frame to put on my wall."
Harry's drive to persist with his treatment stepped up a gear at the end of the Ilminster Youth team's season, when the referee allowed him to play for the final ten minutes. Remembering this, he is unable to keep the smile from his face.
He said: "I got hacked a lot. Being able to play, even if only for ten minutes, gave me a taste of what I really want to do; I will get through these operations so I can play again."
Harry will soon take his final exams at school and is attending Holyrood's end-of-year ceremony on Friday.
Instead of staying on at the sixth form, he has secured a place at Somerset College of Arts and Technology in Taunton.
His mother Cindy, who used to run the Crown Inn in Ilminster, said: "I took Harry up to Taunton but he did the interview and everything else on his own, he doesn't let anything get in his way.
"I think college will help with his independence but he is very self-motivated anyway, it was his decision to have the surgery to correct his walking.
"We don't really have a timescale as to when the operations will be finished, as they depend upon the success of each other and cerebral palsy is so unpredictable. But our doctor says he is pleased with the status of Harry's leg and things look good at the moment.
"A lot of people know him in Ilminster and they know how determined he is. He's certainly not shy and is able to make friends easily.
"We get a lot of support from friends and family and I would especially like to thank the Ilminster Youth team, Yeovil Town and Holyrood School, who have gone out on a limb for Harry. Also Jeff Perks, who arranged the half-time presentation.
"This has taken its toll on the family but I think 2010 will be our year."