Fundraiser match for former Rochdale star Joe Thompson raises thousands for his cancer treatment

Mike Hall went along to the fundraising match for Joe Thompson

A match to raise funds for a former footballer who has been diagnosed with cancer for the third time has been held in Rochdale.

Dale legend Joe Thompson revealed that he has been diagnosed with cancer again in April 2024.

The Goals For Cure game saw an 11 man strong team 'Joey T' take on a Celebrity All Stars side to help raise vital funds for Joe's ongoing treatment.

Organised by Joe and former Dale youth player Bader Al-Akkad, the match saw a host of Premier League stars take to the pitch at the Crown Oil Arena.

Joe is currently undergoing treatment after confirming that he has been diagnosed with Stage 4 Hodgkin's Lymphoma.

Joe surrounded by fellow players and supporters Credit: Granada Reports

He attended the game on Saturday afternoon after having chemotherapy in the morning, saying: "I'll be back in the hospital tomorrow for more treatment but I know how much I mean to these guys and how much they mean to me, so it was important I did my best to get here.

"I asked for the army to rise up and they've come in their thousands - I'm very privileged and very honoured."

An emotional Joe walks onto the pitch at half time to applause from the gathered crowd Credit: Granada Reports

Joe and his family are aiming to raise £250,000 to cover the costs of his ongoing treatment, and to help fund research into groundbreaking testing for the illness, which could save countless lives.

A Gofundme page has been set up and has already raised more than £92,000.

Joe announced the news in a post on social media in April 2024.

Speaking at the charity match, Joe said: "It's not just about me, there's a bigger picture.

'I'm going through my treatment but I really do want to try and create change, particularly around testing and root causes, and why and how people are getting diagnosed.

"It's something I'm really passionate about."

The former midfielder was cleared of nodular sclerosis Hodgkin lymphoma in June 2014 after six months of chemotherapy.

However, in March 2017, he confirmed the cancer had returned after a tumour was found on his chest.

He stopped playing while he underwent more treatment - including a stem cell transplant - and was told he was in complete remission again, returning to football and Rochdale in December 2017.

In April Joe, now a radio presenter, revealed he has been diagnosed with cancer again, after finding a lump in his neck.

"It's stage 4 Hodgkins Lymphoma, the problem is that this time it's got into my lungs so my breathing has been affected.

"The treatment is tiring but all credit to the nurses and doctors who are keeping my spirits up and keep me smiling."

Joe pictured with family and friends on the pitch Credit: Granada Reports

Joe also paid tribute to his wife and family who were at the match to cheer the players on.

"My family are keeping me going," he said. "It's often the family who suffer the most - the ones who are watching and closest to you.

"And I know every one of them would swap with me in a heartbeat.

"Someone could easily say that I'm unluckiest person in world to be diagnosed three times.

"It's far from ideal, but I often say adversity creates growth so what can I learn from the situation? I'm learning every day and I've got so many people supporting me and keeping me going.

"Thank you - I mean that with the upmost gratitude and a heart filled with love for everyone."

Former Premier League players including former Dale favourite Paul McShane, as well as Stephen Ireland, Phil Bardsley, Jermaine Beckford and Papiss Cisse all took part in the match.

Joe retired from football in 2019

During his career, Joe played for Tranmere Rovers, Carlisle United and Bury.At Spotland, he will always be remembered for his fairytale strike against Charlton Athletic in May 2018, which kept Rochdale in League One and sent rivals Oldham Athletic down to League Two - a goal he said "meant the world to me".

He made his debut in May 2006 before signing professional terms and made a total of 203 appearances for Rochdale across three spells, scoring 21 goals, before retiring in 2019.