“I do not really want the interview to be about me, ”says Mick Harford almost introductory. It underscores why he is such a popular personality in the game and beyond. “It’s about ‘Prostate United’ and Prostate Cancer UK. Obviously you’ll have to say a little bit about me, but I just want to concentrate on all the help I’ve got and the way people have been around. me, and do everything to support me in my illness. ”
It’s almost 12 months since Luton’s assistant manager and head of recruitment were diagnosed with prostate cancer, and four months since he started radiation therapy. This month, Championship Club staff, its academy and community signed up for the Prostate United fitness challenge to show support for Harford and raise money for Prostate Cancer UK, which funds research to improve treatments for the most common cancer in men. It kills a man every 45 minutes in the UK. Harford wants to raise awareness, and his openness has already had a meaningful impact.
“I’ve gotten a lot of letters,” he says. “Thank you Mick, I’ve gone and been checked out.” I have received emails from people who have said that they have got it quite clear or that they are at different stages of prostate cancer. I did not want sympathy; I did not want to do interviews… I was just hoping to create attention because it will get someone. As footballers, we think we are invincible, we think we control the world at times. But this disease leaves no one alone. ”
A bunch of normality returned when Harford returned to the Northeast to visit the family last weekend. He played four games in five days, starting with Leeds against Chelsea under-23 and ending with Luton’s draw in Nottingham Forest on Tuesday. – The supporters have been absolutely fantastic. I have tears in my eyes when I think about what they do for me; every away game, every home game, they sing my name. It was a very overwhelming experience. ”
Harford says he was surprised by the poster outside Kenilworth Road with the words “Big Mick, we’re with you every step”, arranged by the club’s community ambassador, Raj Koyes, whose charity awards dinner raised £ 1,500. In another backing, Luton’s home jersey sponsors, JB Developments, will be replaced by Prostate Cancer UK for Saturday’s match against Cardiff.
Last month, Harford completed 40 days of radiation therapy at University College Hospital (UCLH) in London. The 62-year-old stays on hormone medication and goes to hyperbaric oxygen therapy three or four times a week. His next consultation is on December 29th. “I have good days and bad days. My numbers are good. My blood tests have been positive, so I’m pretty happy, but it’s a long way to go and I know it’s going to be a big battle ahead.”
While at UCLH, he inevitably ended up talking football. “I met a guy while I was in treatment whose father was involved in the air disaster in Munich, a player for Manchester United,” said Harford. “I met his son who was being treated for cancer. He was writing a book called Johnny The Forgotten Babe. I said to him, ‘What was your father’s name?’ He said, “Johnny Berry.” I said, ‘I can not remember him. He said,’ Exactly, no one can remember him. ‘ And the next day he brought me the book, so I read it, and it was really inspiring. ”
61 people from the club, academy and trust are in Luton’s Prostate United squad, including manager Nathan Jones. Each participant chooses a daily distance to run or cycle: 10 km, 5 km or 3 km on foot; or 25 km, 15 km or 10 km on the bike. There have been a few bumps along the way; Chris Clark, the club’s secretary, spent two nights in the hospital after falling off his bike and into a ditch, and this week Carl Turner, an electrician on the maintenance team, was knocked off his bike by a car. Any effort keeps the club’s WhatsApp group ticking. “I get a ping every five minutes because someone else has run another 15 miles, 10 miles or 5 miles,” Harford says.
Harford tries to visit the training ground once every fortnight – “I miss being around the boys” – but he has had to get used to watching matches from home in Harpenden. “I try to get out as much as I can, stay active and try to stay positive. You sit at home and your mind wanders and you become full of negativity. ”
One of the first messages of support came from Sir Alex Ferguson. “I’ve met him on weird occasions, but getting a text from the big man was great. I was actually a Manchester United fan a few years ago because my best friend, Tony Coton, worked there as a goalkeeping coach. When United were in the city, in London or locally, I would try to get there.I loved watching United play in their heyday, when [Roy] Keane was on the team.
“I’ve gotten messages from some of my heroes,” he continues, referring to Dennis Tueart, who he grew up cultivating in Sunderland. Then there is Alvin Martin, with whom he dueled during his playing days. “He said, ‘Who would have thought, Mick, me and you – me and you – would have talked to each other like that in a nice way, [given] the way we used to kick lumps out of each other? ‘ It was an ingenious conversation. He calls me every week, just to give me that support. It’s the football family. All that you leave behind when people suffer a little. I have received support from all walks of life. ”
What would his message be to anyone who hesitates to be tested? “We do not want to know that we have cancer and that is the biggest obstacle you have to overcome,” Harford says. “The PSA test is incredibly fast – you are in and out of the operation in 30 seconds, done. It’s a simple test – just a small plug in the arm and a blood test, and it’s done. I would say, please do not be afraid or scared, because the longer you leave it, the worse it will get. ”