NEIL RE­TURNS AS A LIFE­SAVER

The Football League Paper - - INSIDE: - By Stu­art Ham­monds

NEIL HAR­RIS was back on his old stomp­ing ground this week, tear­ing around the Den like his life de­pended on it.

Once be­fore, of course, the 36year-old’s life did de­pend on some­thing – and that was get­ting checked out for cancer.

His open­ness with the Lions’ club doc­tor when he was 23 pre­vented his testicular cancer from spread­ing, and he went onto score 138 goals to be­come the south-east Lon­don side’s record scorer.

That was why on Wed­nes­day morn­ing he turned out for the Men United v Prostate Cancer team and then, hav­ing switched sides, for a UK Par­lia­men­tary XI – in a game to raise aware­ness for the ‘Silent Killer’ that ac­counts for over 10,000 men’s lives in the UK ev­ery year and which has been adopted by Mill­wall as their shirt spon­sors for this sea­son.

“It’s bril­liant to be back out there for such a good cause,” said Har­ris. “It’s a mes­sage I’ve been try­ing to get out for the 13 years since I got di­ag­nosed and suc­cess­fully treated.

“That is that there is a naivety in men to the fact that we are all vul­ner­a­ble. When we sit in the pub hav­ing a pint, men don’t openly talk about things. “So oc­ca­sions like this, and the fact that the club is sup­port­ing Prostate Cancer UK, are great for aware­ness.

“Each match­day here you’ve got over 10,000 people and if most of them buy a pro­gramme, the mes­sages are loud and clear.

“You’d like to think that the ma­jor­ity of male home fans will read the info and at some point get them­selves checked out. One in eight are di­ag­nosed with prostate cancer. It's fright­en­ing.

“I was very for­tu­nate to be in an en­vi­ron­ment where we, as a bunch of play­ers had a club doc­tor that we re­spected and were very close to.

For­tu­nate

“I was quite an open young man, so when I felt some­thing was wrong I could deal with it straight away. The most for­tu­nate thing I did was hav­ing the balls, shall we say, to let the doc di­ag­nose me.”

Af­ter a pre-match team-talk from Lions man­ager Ian Hol­loway, for­mer League stars in­clud­ing Har­ris, Luther Blis­sett, Ley­ton Ori­ent youth coach Andy Ed­wards and Mill­wall chief ex­ec­u­tive Andy Am­bler took on an MPs XI who do­nated £100 to Prostate Cancer UK for ev­ery goal scored.

“They’ll be putting it on ex­penses, no doubt!” joked Olly. “Re­mem­ber that this is your chance to have a go at them about our taxes, so trip ‘em up!”

Af­ter open­ing up a 4-0 lead, Har­ris’ switch and the re­place­ment of for­mer Wok­ing goal­keeper Lau­rence Batty with Ori­ent youth coach Er­rol McKel­lar proved costly in score­line for the char­ity’s team – and in pocket for the MPs.

McKel­lar, the 56-year-old step­fa­ther of ex-O’s de­fender Ai­den Palmer, was play­ing his first game since beat­ing prostate cancer. He let in six as the score reached 6-5 to the Par­lia­ment boys – with a lit­tle help from ref­eree Der­mot Gal­lagher!

“It was all a ploy to get more money for a great char­ity,” said McKel­lar. “I took the test and it saved my life.”

Har­ris, mean­while, is back at the club he loves as U21 man­ager af­ter his fi­nal two years play­ing at Southend, and de­ter­mined to give young Non-League talent the chance to pass the same foot­ball test he did when he first joined Mill­wall from Cam­bridge City for £30,000 in 1998.

“My path­way to Mill­wall was Great Wak­er­ing Rovers, Mal­don Town and then Cam­bridge City,” says Har­ris.“I spend a lot of time at Non-League games watch­ing young play­ers and hope­fully we’ll be a club that gives boys an op­por­tu­nity to come in and show­case their tal­ents again.

“This is the work­ing men’s club; it thrives on hard work, de­ter­mi­na­tion and ag­gres­sion.”

For more about the match and de­tails of how to take an on­line test, go to www.prostate­can­ceruk.org

THREAT: Neil Har­ris takes a free kick for the Prostate Cancer team be­fore swap­ping sides, be­low

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