HIGHCLIFFE author Alan Hill has been backed by Harry Redknapp and leading supporters’ groups for raising awareness of autism among football fans.

Hill’s debut biography, A Boy Called Arsenal, reveals the challenges Bournemouth local Arsenal Whittick faced growing up with acute autism as well as an obsession with football which saw him change his first name to Arsenal.

Hill, who is a former Finance Director at Autism Wessex, decided to pen A Boy Called Arsenal after hearing Mr Whittick describe living high up on the autism spectrum during a works night out in 2018.

He said: “I could see that Arsenal was struggling with a normal social environment standing alone and a little removed from everyone else, so I went to speak with him.

“What was a Scouser called Arsenal doing in Bournemouth?

“It was then he told me of his late diagnosis of autism triggered by some very dark circumstances that I immediately believed this was a story that needed telling."

Ex-Premier League manager Harry Redknapp, an Autism Wessex Ambassador, has given his backing to the biography.

The former Cherries and Southampton boss said: “In the last few years there has been some great work by lots of different organisations to support people with autism and Alan has done this with Arsenal’s story.

“Hopefully the work will continue in the future too."

Three years ago, Redknapp helped the Christchurch charity launch the Autism Friendly Football campaign which encouraged clubs, including AFC Bournemouth, to improve matchday experiences for fans with autism.

Sales of A Boy Called Arsenal have grown steadily since its release in July, with many football fans taking to online review sites saying they were unaware of the upheaval autistic fans face when presented with certain scenarios.

Both Arsenal Football Supporters Club and AFC Bournemouth’s Cherries Trust have applauded the book saying it has brought the subject of autism to new audiences.

They also hope increased awareness of autism continues when fans are allowed back into football stadiums.

Board Chair of Cherries Trust, Mark Dean, also credited AFC Bournemouth for leading the way in providing support for people with disabilities in recent years.

He said: “The full in depth writing of A Boy Called Arsenal is very inspiring. I have witnessed first-hand how adults and children with autism react to football, so Arsenal’s experiences are relatable.

“The work AFC Bournemouth have done to become as inclusive as they have is amazing, from providing a sensory room and sensory bags for children with autism to training mental health first aiders to working within the crowd when required.”

All royalties from A Boy Called Arsenal will be donated to Arsenal and his family to help with their ongoing challenges with autism and mental health.