March of the Day: Former players join fight against MND with long distance walk

Former footballers Marcus Stewart and Stephen Darby are holding one of the biggest fundraising events for the Darby Rimmer MND Foundation to raise awareness for motor neurone disease.

A core team of 16 former players are taking part in the ‘March of the Day’ trek, starting at the University of Bradford Stadium and travelling more than 175 miles over two-and-a-half days.

The walk started on Friday and will take in 17 football grounds across West Yorkshire and the north-west, including Elland Road, the Etihad Stadium, Old Trafford and Goodison Park, before finishing at Anfield on Sunday evening.

Stewart, who used to play for Bristol Rovers, Huddersfield, Ipswich and Sunderland, was diagnosed with MND in September 2022 while former Bradford, Bolton and Liverpool defender Darby was told he had the condition four years earlier in 2018.

Speaking at the start of the march at the University of Bradford Stadium, Stewart told the PA news agency: “It satisfies me that I see people here, that I am part of the process to help people.

“It satisfies me that there is hope for people that can’t be able to walk whether it is they can’t walk or talk. I have a voice still and still quite mobile so the message to them is don’t give up and we are trying our best to find a cure. I am part of that and I am not giving up.

“Players have to look after each other both on the pitch and after you’ve finished. It’s nice that so many ex pros that I have played with and haven’t played with are joining in the fight.

“MND lives with me. I don’t live with MND. As it stands I can do most things.”

Walkers will be wearing blue t-shirts in support of Stewart for the first part of the walk to Bolton and will then change into red t-shirts with Darby’s name on the back for the rest of the walk.

March of the Day charity walk
Over 200 people turned up for the charity walk (Danny Lawson/PA)

McCarthy said: “When something like this happens to two young men like Stephen and Marcus, people rally around and generally people are good.

“Stewie as we called him… all the goals he scored for us in the year Sunderland got promoted, he was magnificent, a top bloke and centre forward. He was a scrapper and a great goalscorer. He scored us 20 goals when we went up (in the 2004-05 season), (and was) great around the dressing room.”

Stuart McCall was Darby’s manager at Bradford and described the former Bantams full-back as a true professional.

He said: “Under circumstances he was the best professional I have ever managed and epitomises everything you want in a player or person. A good turn out for a fantastic guy.”

The world of sport has been united in raising awareness for MND over recent years, with former rugby league player Kevin Sinfield completing an ultra-marathon challenge in December.

The event – called 7 in 7 in 7, with Sinfield running seven ultra-marathons in seven days in seven cities – raised more than £630,000 and was inspired by his former Leeds Rhinos team-mate Rob Burrow, who was diagnosed with the condition in 2019.

– Advertisement –
– Advertisement –