The footballing world has rallied around an "unbelievably talented"footballer, aged 11, after he was diagnosed with a rare cancer duringlockdown.

Fit and healthy Thomas Cunningham, from Wavertree Garden Suburb, in Liverpool, was given the life-changing news during the peak of lockdown after complaining of earache.

His mum, Liz Cunningham, 48, has bravely shared some of theschoolboy's symptoms in the hopes of raising awareness about childhoodcancer.

Thomas, who has had trials at Liverpool, Everton and Preston told hismum he was "like any other lad" a few weeks ago before his diagnosis.

Having never had any health problems, apart from a knee injury, Lizsaid Thomas started showing symptoms while in lockdown, in April.

The mum-of-three said: "He's never had any time off school, apart fromwhen he had a knee injury, and that pulled him out of football for abit.

"Just as lockdown started he had a bad chest and and I was quiteconcerned about it because it went on and on, but then it went away."

With hindsight, Liz said she thinks in the last six or seven weeksThomas was showing symptoms.

She said: "He lost weight, nearly a stone we know now, he was verylethargic and this is a little boy who always had a football at hisfeet every day, he could never really explain what he thought it was."

Credit: Liverpool Echo

One evening Liz said Thomas had felt poorly with earache before goingto bed and when she woke him in the morning she noticed he had a lumpon his clavicle and his neck.

When asking Thomas about it, the 11-year-old said he had noticed themfor a while, but on that morning they had developed in size.

After a number of hospital appointments, Liz was sadly given the newsThomas had Hodgkins Lymphoma - a rare form of cancer for someone hisage.

"They told Thomas he had naughty cells and they're not working properly and he said 'am I going to die?'

Liz Cunningham,
Credit: Liverpool Echo

Since Thomas' diagnosis, Liz said the grassroots football communityand even footballing legends have rallied round the young DynamoChildwall player.

Thomas, a Liverpool FC fan, amazingly had messages wishing him wellfrom Steven Gerrard, Gareth Southgate, Virgil Van Dijk and PeterCrouch.

As well as famous names, members of the local footballing communityhave gone above and beyond to support Liz, Thomas and his twosiblings, Katie and Joseph.

Andy Forshaw, who has set up a gofundme for Thomas and the family,said he and many others wanted to help once they heard news of hisdiagnosis.

The MCSS Under-11s manager is competing a triathlon on June 27 withothers to help raise money, which will include a 1.5k swim, 10k runand 40k cycle.

Credit: Liverpool Echo

"Grassroots football in Liverpool is huge, we see these people week in, week out. We are unbelievably close and we really know each other.

Andy Forshaw

Liz said she was "overwhelmed" and "gobsmacked" at the kind supportshe and the family have received.

Thomas has already began chemotherapy, Liz added, but it is hopedmoney raised can help to give him something to look forward to oncehe's in good health again.