BLACKPOOL’S players were stunned into silence when they were told that Keith Southern has had surgery to remove a tumour.
The popular midfielder has been absent from the club for the past fortnight and his team-mates were told about his illness yesterday.
Ian Holloway gathered the squad around him after training at Squires Gate to tell them about Southern’s condition.
The good news is that the operation to remove a tumour from one of Southern’s testicles has gone well and the 30-year-old – married, with a young son, Ryan – is making good progress and should be able to return to training in the new year.
It was an emotional moment for many at the club, for Southern is one of the nicest players you could hope to meet and a hugely popular member of the squad.
Holloway said: “We had a talk with the lads about Keith’s situation and explained what is happening. I don’t want to talk too much about it because it is Keith’s business, and he is a very quiet and shy lad .
“He has just had an operation and he is improving. We think it is all going to be really good news, and we are just looking forward to having him back because he is a belting lad and a very good footballer.”
Southern played 90 minutes in the 2-2 draw at Middlesbrough a fortnight go but has missed Pool’s last two games, against Birmingham and Leicester, with the club saying he had an illness.
He is now awaiting for the results of a biopsy following surgery on Wednesday.
Holloway added: “I spoke with him and he is gutted not to be involved in the next few fixtures. It is typical of Keith that he was talking about returning to training. He wants to be back in action sooner rather than later.”
Southern joined Blackpool in August 2002 and has been a virtual ever-present under five managers – Steve McMahon, Colin Hendry, Simon Grayson, Tony Parkes and Holloway.
He is due to have a testimonial at the end of the season.
“He has asked for his privacy to be respected,” added Holloway. “I am sure each and every supporter wishes him a speedy recovery.”