Kind-hearted Blackpool FC stalwart Keith Southern has given an amazing gift to the resort’s youngsters – after fulfilling a promise he made more than three years ago.
The former Seasiders midfielder was at Brian House Children’s Hospice in Bispham to hand over £5,000 which thousands of Pool fans helped raise at his testimonial last summer.
Keith, 32, who made 314 appearances for Blackpool in 10 years at Bloomfield Road, was so affected by a visit to the hospice, which provides palliative care for children and families, alongside other Pool players he made a pledge to return.
Keith, who was diagnosed with testicular cancer in November 2011, said: “We did a charity calendar a few years ago for Brian House and it really touched us all, seeing such poorly children. It brought home how difficult it must be for parents and carers in that situation. My little lad Ryan was a newborn at the time and it brought home to me personally how lucky he is. He is perfectly fine and healthy but you just don’t know what is around the corner which is why places like Brian House are so important.
“You can’t imagine what they have to go through and I have never forgotten that day.
“When I was diagnosed with cancer I had so many cards from the kids at Brian House which was just fantastic of them to take the time out to think of someone else. Giving something back is the least I can do.” Southern joined Blackpool in 2002 from Everton and went on to become one of the most popular players in the club’s history, playing an integral part in the club’s rise from League One to the Premier League.
He was named Man of the Match in the Championship play-off final victory against Cardiff in May 2010.
After he was diagnosed with cancer, he underwent an operation to remove a lump on one of his testicles and amazingly returned to captain Pool against Sheffield Wednesday just three months later.
More than 9,000 Pool fans paid tribute to Southern at his testimonial, organised by Blackpool FC and Blackpool Supporters Association (BSA), in August last year just after his £300,000 move to Huddersfield Town.
He will also donate another £5,000 to a testicular cancer charity to be decided.
Keith, dad to Ryan, three, and five-month-old Anton, added: “I have never given to charity really - my wife does things all the time - but it’s nothing I have ever really given much thought to.
“But I have children of my own and I never thought seeing children suffer would be so hard. I am lucky that I am in a position that I can help in my own little way and I hope it makes a difference.
“I’m so grateful to Karl Oyston, secretary Matt Williams and BSA for organising the testimonial. I will never forget my time at Blackpool Football Club.”
Shirley Morgan, from Brian House, said: “We were very happy to welcome Keith and his lovely family to Brian House Children’s Hospice and would like to say a heartfelt thank you to them for their generosity. Donations such as this go a long way and mean a great deal to us, and to the 80 local families we support.
“Keith was generous with his time as well, happily posing for photos with our youngsters, chatting to staff and taking a short tour of both Brian House and Trinity Hospice.
“His donation and his interest in the work we do has really touched us, and we are very grateful.”
Glenn Bowley, chairman of Blackpool Supporters Association who also chaired the testimonial committee, said: “Keith epitomises everything that is right about professional footballers and I think it is a tremendous gesture to make a donation to Brian House as well as supporting testicular cancer.
“As a player, his commitment and passion were first class and there is no doubt that he played an instrumental role in many of our successes over the past 10 years.
“He will go down in Blackpool FC folklore as one of the fans’ favourite players and for that reason he is sure to always get a warm reception whenever he returns to Bloomfield Road.”