Burnley captain Ben Mee's joy as daughter Olive Grace - born prematurely - joins her family at home after months in hospital

The apple clearly doesn't fall far from the tree. Strength, fight, courage and heart are all words you'd associate with Burnley's leader Ben Mee.

Wednesday, 9th September 2020, 2:50 pm
Ben Mee of Burnley celebrates with Jack Cork and Dwight McNeil after scoring his team's first goal during the Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Burnley FC at Selhurst Park on June 29, 2020 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

But daughter Olive Grace, born 16 weeks premature, has exhibited all the distinctive attributes of the Clarets defender in the early stages of life.

The now 17-week-old has had no option but to fight since birth - weighing just one pound and two ounces - and now, after spending months inside Manchester's St Mary’s Hospital, she has finally joined her family at home.

“The little one came home last week, so she’s been back with us for a few days, which is nice," beamed Mee.

Ben Mee of Burnley celebrates after scoring his team's first goal during the Premier League match between Southampton FC and Burnley FC at St Mary's Stadium on February 15, 2020 in Southampton, United Kingdom. (Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images)

“It’s been three-and-a-half months, so it’s nice to have her home and not have to go to the hospital every day and just be together as a family.

“She’s doing well now and that’s all we can ask for. We still need to go in for checks, but she’s doing well so far.”

The 30-year-old centre-back, who attributed his only goal of the 2019/20 campaign to Olive, having netted the winner against Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park, has faced a number of challenges since the pandemic hit.

The former Manchester City man and wife, Sarah, were forced to visit their daughter separately until Covid-19 guidelines were eased.

He made daily visits, while balancing work commitments following Project Restart, as Olive spent time in intensive care and a high-dependency unit.

However, while being nursed back to fitness at the Barnfield Training Centre having sustained a thigh strain, Mee has been able to introduce the newest addition to the family to her elder sibling, two-year-old Jaxon.

He said: “Our little boy met her for the first time when she came home as well, which was nice. He's quite gentle with her because of her size. He's been good.

"It's been difficult, trying to juggle everything that was going on. But I always thought it was quite positive; obviously you try to look at the best things and work through it and keep my wife positive through a tough time.

"She [Olive] is bigger now. She’s six pounds which is not massive, but it’s quite big compared to what she was.

"We can’t praise the nurses and doctors enough. They were amazing with us, both hospitals where we were, they were amazing. We can’t speak highly enough of them and it’s been really good care we’ve had.”

The skipper, who will likely endure a delayed start to his 10th season at the club, feels that the whole experience has provided him with a new perspective on life.

Becoming a dad, particularly under those circumstances, has certainly changed his outlook on life. "I guess so because I’ve changed a little bit," he finished.

"My growth as a person has improved. You go through tough times and you improve as a person, you grow as a human being.

“Seeing, not just my daughter, but all the babies who were in there and all the work that goes into caring for them.

“You see the work the NHS does and we managed to raise some funds for them, it certainly changes your perspective, it gives you more or a broader outlook on things.

“With my first son, who’s two now, football up until that point is pretty much your life. But I do think I am quite level-headed about most things. I can put things in perspective.

"I can be quite level about things, but certainly when something like that happens, it does change your outlook on things a little more.”