Gary Speed widow calls to support charities

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Football star John Hartson has delivered a touching message of thanks to the devastated widow of Wales manager Gary Speed after she called on football fans to support his charity.

Speed, found dead at his home in Cheshire last month, was laid to rest yesterday at a private funeral ceremony in North Wales.

In the tragic aftermath of the tragedy, the former Leeds United and Sheffield United midfielder’s wife Louise called on people to donate to two cancer funds – The Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and the John Hartson Foundation.

Former Arsenal striker Hartson, 36, set up his charity after being diagnosed with brain, lung and testicular cancer in 2009.

Speaking at the opening of a £3m cancer centre, Maggies, in Swansea yesterday, he said: “I am incredibly touched by Louise’s calls for people to back my charity. Gary was always very supportive of the foundation.

“He even played in a charity match to raise money for it on his own birthday as well as running the London marathon in aid of it. That’s the kind of man he was.

“It means an awful lot, especially as some of the money from my foundation will go towards the Maggies centre, which is a cause very close to my heart.

“I spoke with Gary’s father Roger last night to say I could not make it to the funeral because I was opening the centre – but my thoughts are with him and his family and I will be attending the memorial service in February.”

Hartson, a father of five, underwent several life-saving operations and endured more than 60 chemotherapy sessions during his remarkable recovery.

“Being a footballer, I was used to my body taking a bit of a battering...but the emotional side of it was incredibly tough.”

Speed, who played alongside Hartson for Wales, was a member of the Leeds United squad that won the League Championship in 1992. He later played for, and managed, Sheffield United.

He also had spells with Everton, Newcastle United and Bolton Wanderers.