Page last updated at 16:47 GMT, Monday, 13 July 2009 17:47 UK

Support for Hartson over cancer

John Hartson
John Hartson was a "major hero" for Celtic fans who always gave 100%

Support and best wishes from football fans, clubs and players have been offered to ex-Wales player John Hartson after he was diagnosed with cancer.

The 34-year-old, who was capped by his country 51 times and also played for Arsenal and Celtic, has testicular cancer which has spread to his brain.

His former Wales team mate Andy Legg, who also battled cancer, said: "There is always hope. He's a strong man."

Celtic said it would offer any support it could to a "great player".

Hartson was diagnosed on Sunday following tests at Singleton Hospital in his home city of Swansea after complaining of severe headaches.

The hospital said he would start a course of radiotherapy and chemotherapy which would last "for many months".

Legg, who also played for Cardiff and Swansea and now manages Llanelli, said he had spoken to Hartson's father and was hoping to visit his ex-teammate.

"I was gobsmacked [when I heard] I was lost for words and didn't know what to say," he told BBC Radio Wales.

Andy Legg
He's a strong man, pretty strong willed as well so that will help him
Andy Legg, ex-Wales team mate

"I'm hopefully going down to see John tomorrow. If I can be of any help in any way I'm here for him.

"And my thoughts and best wishes go out to his family as well because they will be feeling pretty useless at the moment where they feel they can't help him and so my thoughts go for them as well as John."

He said he believed Hartson would be in a good position to fight the cancer, being fit and having only recently retired from football.

"He's a strong man, pretty strong willed as well so that will help him," said Legg, who has recovered after a tumour was found in his neck in 2005.

"There's always hope. John's is a lot different cancer to what I had.

John Hartson after scoring for Wales
John Hartson won 51 caps for Wales during his career

"I was very lucky and hopefully John will be as well... he's got to be positive about things and think about coming out the other side."

He said he understood how Hartson would be feeling after the diagnosis.

"It's hard to deal with because you feel numb," he said.

"But his initial thoughts will be 'how am I going to get through it?' But he can, he can get through it. He's a fighter."

'Respect and affection'

Hartson's other former clubs included West Ham, Wimbledon, Coventry City, West Brom, Norwich and Luton Town.

But he is best-known for playing for Celtic for five years, where manager Martin O'Neill signed him in 2001 for £6m and he went on to score 89 goals.

In a statement the club said: "Clearly, everyone at the club fully supports John and his family at this extremely difficult time.

"It is very difficult for us to understand what John is going through at the moment, but we will offer any support we can to a great Celtic player."

A club spokesperson also told www.celticfcnet: "John Hartson is a man whom Celtic Football Club has immense respect and affection for.

"He has served the club, and the game of football in general, with distinction over many years."

Peter Rafferty, president of the Affiliation of Celtic Supporters' Clubs said: "He was one of our major heroes and really well-liked and appreciated by the fans. He always gave 100%.

"It's so sad that something like this could happen to someone so young. He is still a very young man and has a young family.

"It's a real tragedy and we just wish him well with his treatment."

He added: "He was a larger-than-life player. When he played, he played wholeheartedly.

"He was a genuine lad, he scored a lot of goals and he was a good player.

"Let's hope he is going to make a full and quick recovery. If anyone can do it, he can. You could see he was a strong-willed person and he will give it his best shot.

"I don't think there is any doubt about that."

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