Marcus Stewart completes March of the Day for MND

Former football players Marcus Stewart (left) and Stephen Darby, who have been diagnosed with motor neurone disease
Marcus Stewart (left) and Stephen Darby (right) are spearheading the football community's response to MND

A former professional footballer has completed a 178-mile (286km) march to raise money for Motor Neurone Disease.

Marcus Stewart, 51, head of player development at Yeovil Town, was diagnosed with the condition in September 2022.

Former Premier League player Stewart called in at 19 football stadiums along the way and raised £166,000.

The funds raised by 'March of the Day' will go towards medical research and supporting people with the condition.

The former Bristol Rovers, Bristol City, Ipswich Town and Sunderland striker was accompanied by other sporting personalities such as former Manchester United players Paul Scholes and Nicky Butt on the route.

Motor neurone disease is a rare, degenerative condition which attacks nerves in the brain and spinal cord, for which there is no cure.

The money raised from the march will go to the Darby Rimmer MND Foundation, which aims to raise awareness of the condition, generate funds to go towards medical research, and provide a support network for those diagnosed with the disease.

Participants of the walk on the pitch at Bradford City's Valley Parade stadium
The walk started from Bradford City's Valley Parade stadium at 09:00 GMT on Friday

"A cure is the ultimate goal, but for me, if we can get a treatment as well, that can sustain life by decades and not months, that's what we're looking for," said Stewart.

"My health is not too bad, I've still got my mobility. I struggle with my left hand, and my right hand is starting to get a bit weak, but that progression is two years down the line.

"A lot of people with MND get changes in their body every day, every week, and it's a lot quicker.

"While I'm able to, and while I'm still here, I'm still going to do as much as I can to help the charity," he added.

Marcus Stewart playing for Ipswich Town
Marcus Stewart played for Ipswich Town, Bristol City, Exeter, Bristol Rovers and Sunderland

Completing the march alongside Stewart was former footballer Stephen Darby, who was diagnosed with the condition at 29-years-old.

Also joining them was former rugby league player Rob Burrow, who has lived with MND since 2019.

'Bringing people together'

"Through the night there was someone constantly walking out of the 16 core walkers, all the time," Mr Stewart explained.

"Obviously then fans, players and ex-players could join them at whatever stages they were at.

"I'm sure those fans gave the core walkers a massive boost, because there were moments where a lot of them were about to give up."

Among those supporters was former professional footballer, Jamie Redknapp, who has known Mr Stewart since they trained together for the England schoolboy trials, aged 15.

"When you hear something like this it brings it home, that someone is 50-years-old and this can happen to you," he said.

"It's hard to comprehend, hard to believe. But then when you think what people can do, the power of what you can achieve by bringing people together and raising money and awareness, I think it's absolutely fabulous," he added.

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