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Steel workers tackle football legends in support of colleague

30 January 2013

An SFIL quality engineer whose quick-thinking wife spotted the early signs of skin cancer will now be tackling footballing legends with his colleagues to raise money for the hospital that saved his life.

John Freeman has signed up for Weston Park Hospital Cancer Charity’s charity football tournament four months after receiving the all-clear.

The Team of Steel Cup five-a-side tournament on Sunday, May 26 will raise vital funds for the Cancer Charity’s ‘Do Your Bit Campaign’, which aims to raise £1.3 million for a new Cancer Research and Treatment Suite at Weston Park Hospital.

SFIL has thrown its support behind the tournament by entering teams from its machining and forging divisions who will have the chance the play against former Blades and Owls stars on the day.

Captain of the machining team John Freeman said: “My wife, Barbara, is a medical secretary at Weston Park Hospital and she spotted a mole on my back and insisted I went to Weston Park to get it checked out.”

John’s check-up quickly revealed it was melanoma - cancer of the skin. Doctors caught it in the very early stages and operated immediately and John was told he was lucky it had not spread.

The 47 year-old dad-of-four added: “It all came completely out of the blue – no one in my family has ever had cancer, so it was a real shock. My wife saved my life and now I’m determined to do what I can to raise money for the Cancer Charity to help the fantastic staff at Weston Park Hospital continue their excellent work.

“I’m a life-long Blades fan and Barbara and I are season ticket holders, so the tournament is the ideal way to raise money! Walking out on the pitch is something I’ve always wanted to do and it’s great that I will be surrounded by my enthusiastic colleagues who are willing to put their own time and effort into raising money for such a worthy cause.”

John also has a secret weapon up his sleeve - his nephew and Chesterfield FC attacker, Scott Boden, will be coaching the machining team ahead of the big day – something he is yet to reveal to the forging team!

Being part of the machining team has also inspired SFIL south machine shop estimator, Les Blackwell, to lose weight and give up smoking.

Blades fan Les, 58, said: “When I joined the five-a-side team and found out we would be getting a DVD and photo of the day I thought ‘if I’m going to be playing on my beautiful Bramall Lane then I want to look half decent!’

“So I signed up to a slimming world close to my home in Birley and I’m aiming to lose up to two and a half stone.”

Les, who currently weighs 15 stone 13lbs, gave up smoking after Christmas and said he kicked his 46 year-habit with the aid of a self-help book.

He added: “I’m really looking forward to playing in the tournament – it’s every Blades fan’s dream to walk out on the pitch.

“My family has been really supportive about my new fitness regime and will be cheering me on at Bramall Lane. We’re all Blades, apart from my 91 year-old mum who is a Wednesdayite. She won’t be coming to watch but has already sponsored me.”

Gareth Barker, SFIL’s managing director, forgings division, said: “We are delighted to be supporting such a worthy cause by entering two teams into the Team of Steel Cup and we look forward to playing alongside some footballing heroes at Bramall Lane.

“The enthusiasm and light-hearted rivalry between our Forging and Machining Teams has encouraged us all to back Weston Park Hospital Cancer Charity’s Do Your Bit campaign and ultimately raise vital funds for the new Research and Treatment Suite.”

Tina Harrison, acting deputy director of Weston Park Hospital Cancer Charity, said: “Forgemasters is one of the city’s biggest companies and we really appreciate their support for this unique fundraiser. We still have spaces available, so if there are any other workplaces, families or groups of friends that think they can take on the mighty Forgemasters’ team, then please enter a team today!

“Those taking part could also have the chance to take on the legends team from either the Owls or the Blades."

For more information and to enter a team visit or call the Cancer Charity office on 0114 226 5370.