KEITH Southern says his testimonial against Everton marks “a fitting end” to a rollercoaster 12 months.
The midfielder suffered the hammer blow of being diagnosed with testicular cancer before Christmas.
But he has bounced back and in the last few months has re-started his playing career, found out his wife is pregnant – despite medics saying he might not be able to father any more children – and received a special recognition award at an emotional player of the season night.
Now to cap it all, Southern will skipper Blackpool on Sunday, August 5, in a match with former club Everton to mark 10 years at Bloomfield Road.
He will receive the proceeds from the match, a mark of respect for his service.
“I am absolutely overjoyed this has been sorted out and to play against Everton, a club where I spent six happy years as a kid, is just a dream come true. It is the only game I would have wanted really,” said the 31-year-old.
“It has literally been a rollercoaster these last 12 months. There have been so many ups and downs. But this is a really fitting end to what has been a real hectic period and I couldn’t be happier.”
Southern is likely to be given a guard of honour by both sets of players, and what pleases a player who is the very definition of combative is that his testimonial will be a proper match.
“It is a game which will be really competitive because the season kicks off 10 days or so later, so it will be a hell of a work-out for both sets of players,” added Southern, who has made 353 appearances for Blackpool and scored 30 goals since signing in August 2002.
“I can only imagine at this stage what it is going to be like to walk out of the tunnel on the night but I will be extremely proud – proud of myself, my family and Blackpool Football Club. It will be a moment that I will cherish for the rest of my life.”
Hopefully it will be a good omen too. Last time Pool played Everton in a pre-season friendly was August 2009.
It was Charlie Adam’s debut as a permanent Seasider, Pool won 2-1 and went on to win promotion to the Premier League.
Seasiders secretary Matt Williams, who has played a big part in helping arrange the testimonial, said: “Everyone at the club is delighted for Keith as he is so well thought of both in Blackpool and at Everton, and he thoroughly deserves this match.
“I am sure our supporters will turn out in large numbers to salute him and thank him for what he’s given over the last decade.”
Southern added: “I’d like to say thanks to everyone at the club for making it happen – especially Karl Oyston and Matt – and also to Everton for kindly coming down.
“It will be a fantastic day and I am really looking forward to it.”