AN emotional weekend for Keith Southern had a fitting conclusion, with a trip to his former club Everton in the fifth round of the FA Cup awaiting the Seasiders.
After making his comeback in Saturday’s drawn cup clash with the Owls at Bloomfield Road, midfielder Southern thanked the fans who chanted his name at every game since he was diagnosed with testicular cancer.
The 30-year-old was named captain and received a tumultuous reception as he led the team out for a fourth-round tie, which Pool drew 1-1 thanks to Kevin Phillips’ stoppage-time penalty.
Southern is the Seasiders’ longest-serving player, having joined in 2002 after five years on the Goodison Park books.
“I would probably go as far as to say Saturday was one of my best days in football,” said Southern, who still lives on Merseyside.
He discovered a tumour after playing the full 90 minutes for Pool at Middlesbrough in November.
“The last few months have just been a whirlwind,” he said. “I played on the Saturday against Boro and by Monday teatime I was told something not very nice, that I had a cancerous tumour.
“You get over it. It has taken me a little bit of time. My wife has been brilliant and I’d like to say a big thank you to everybody at the club too. I’ve heard the fans have been singing my name and I’ve had countless letters and cards.
“One from Brian House really touched me at Christmas. For a group of young children, who are seriously sick themselves, to take the time to send me something really touched me. I’ve kept every letter and every card.”
Southern spoke with his usual dignity and eloquence about the last two months, adding: “It was quite a testing time. I was in quite a dark place, quite lonely for a long time.
“I didn’t tell the whole squad for two or three weeks because I am quite a private person and I didn’t feel everybody needed to know.
“I felt quite bad because these are lads I have played with for years and years, and I kept it from them.
“When you are a footballer you just take things for granted. You turn up every morning and have a moan about anything, maybe that the balls aren’t pumped up or it is windy.
“But when it is suddenly taken away from you, you do think of the small things in life that you miss.
“I was at home for about a month kicking my heels. It was a lonely place but I am over that now.
“Thankfully I got some light at the end of the tunnel just before Christmas and here we are.
“I am fine and hopefully it is onwards and upwards now.”
Southern has received the all-clear from the medics, though he will have to undergo regular scans and checks for five years.
He added: “They said I didn’t need any further treatment. They offered me some chemotherapy as a precaution but I was advised not to take it for one or two other reasons. But I am fit and healthy, and I feel great.”
The one downside for Southern on his return was a four-inch gash on his ankle which required stitches and ended his afternoon prematurely.
He added: “It was quite a nasty injury, and at the time I thought there was malice in the tackle (by David Prutton).
“But on reflection I’m going to say there wasn’t. He has gone in a little bit late and clumsy, but I’ve probably done a few of those myself over the years. It is unforhe has caught me under my shinpad and it has ripped my skin.
“But I would take eight stitches in a leg wound over what I’ve been through any day of the week.
“It is just a minor hiccup. Hopefully I will get over it quickly and be back for the replay.”
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