Phil Walker had many a tussle spearheading Matlock Town’s attack 25 years ago, but nothing like his son and former Mansfield Town youngster Jamie’s battle against cancer more recently.
Jamie, also a former Gladiator, was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma in 2005 and needed six months of chemotherapy and six months of radiation as he battled to beat the disease. Thankfully he has now been in remission for seven years.
He was treated at King’s Mill Hospital, Sutton, and the Walkers say thank you to the Haematology Ward there by staging an annual charity football match.
This year’s game is at Matlock Town’s Autoworld Arena on Sunday, 28th September (3pm) when a Phil Walker and Mark Crossley XI take on Once Upon A Smile FC, a celebrity line-up made up of television and soap stars with some footballers thrown in.
Current Matlock boss Mark Atkins, a Premier League title winner with Blackburn Rovers in 1994/95, will be in action for the Walker and Crossley side, who should also include former Derby defenders Simon Coleman and Shane Nicholson, Jamie Hewitt, a full-back with Chesterfield who starred and scored in an FA Cup semi-final against Middlesbrough in 1997 and whose son Alex now plays for Matlock, plus a face very familiar to Matlock supporters in Steve Taylor, a popular goalscorer at Causeway Lane 10 years ago.
The Once Upon A Smile team is led by actor Danny Miller who stars as Aaron Livesey in Emmerdale and Kelvin Fletcher, also from Emmerdale where he plays Andy Sugden, is also expected be in action.
Other soap and television stars in the squad include Hollyoaks’ Anthony Quinlan, Tony Discipline and Thomas Law from Eastenders, plus from Shameless and Scott and Bailey, Ben Batt.
Former footballers who could be on show include goalkeeper Matt Murray, once of Wolverhampton Wanderers and now a regular pundit on Sky Sports, Craig Hignett of Middlesbrough, Spanish star Gaizka Mendieta and Danny Higginbotham, formerly with Derby County, Southampton and Stoke City.
The game at Matlock is the ninth arranged by the Walkers, the previous eight having raised in the region of £120,000 in total.
“It would be nice to make at least another £10,000 from this year’s game,” said Phil Walker, who was also a popular player at Chesterfield and Rotherham United before joining Matlock.
“Matlock’s a lovely ground for this match and I know from previous experience that people will thoroughly enjoy themselves.
“We need to fight this disease vigorously. Jamie had wonderful treatment at King’s Mill, that’s why we need to keep on supporting them.”
The entertainment gets underway at noon with mascot coaching on the pitch raising sponsorship money for the fund while also at noon people have the opportunity to meet the stars for brunch in the Autoworld Lounge on the ground at a cost of £12 for adults and £8 for children.
Matlock Town chairman Tom Wright says the Gladiators are delighted to stage the game on the Walkers’ behalf.
He said: “Cancer is something that affects a good many of us at some time in our lives. Everyone’s really pleased that Jamie’s recovering and it’s a real honour for Matlock Town to stage this prestigious fixture so we hope to have a bumper gate for a great cause and a really enjoyable afternoon.”
Tickets are available from Matlock Town FC (01629 583866) or Matlock Design and Print on Steep Turnpike.
Admission to the game costs £5 for adults and £3 for seniors, students and children, with a family ticket of two adults and two children costing £12, and can be gained through the turnstiles on the day. Fans wanting the brunch should ring 01629 583866 to book their meal.