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Page last updated at 05:08 GMT, Friday, 19 June 2009 06:08 UK

Delap saddles up for charity

Rory Delap, third from right, and his riding colleagues at departure point
Rory Delap, third from the right, and his riding colleagues aim to cover 202 miles

By Sam Lyon

You might imagine that the life of a Premier League footballer come the summer is relatively stress-free.

Holidays abroad, money to burn and the opportunity to soak up the sun and relax, safe in the knowledge that their gruelling pre-season training schedule is not due to get started for another fortnight or so.

Well, not so for Stoke midfielder Rory Delap.

While the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Rio Ferdinand are splashed across the tabloids sunning themselves on a beach somewhere, Delap and friends are saddling up for a 202-mile bike ride from Newcastle to Edinburgh - all in the name of charity.

With the trip scheduled to take three days, Delap and six others must cover around 70 miles a day in the hope of raising money for the Donna Louise Children's Hospice in Stoke.

Suffice to say, it's not all fun and games. "Aye, I'm a little tender to say the least," Delap tells BBC Sport on day two of the ride. "But we are making good progress and getting some nice support, too.

You know it's going to be hard work, but to be honest I'm out with my mates, keeping my fitness levels up and hopefully raising a bit of money as well

Rory Delap

"We were at a stop in Seahouses in Northumberland washing down the bikes and two Stoke fans were there - they get everywhere I tell you. Luckily I wasn't in too bad a state at the time, but then it was quite early in the ride!

"You know it's going to be hard work, but to be honest I'm out with my mates, keeping my fitness levels up and hopefully raising a bit of money as well. It's all a bonus."

Already, Delap has surpassed his £1,000 fundraising target. At the time of writing, donations on his Just Giving website had reached £2,795 - and the 32-year-old is desperate for people to keep on digging deep.

"It's a tremendous charity," he said. "It provides respite and end of life care for children with life-limiting conditions who are not expected to live beyond their teenage years. But you go in there and it's full of happiness. You would think the children don't have a care in the world, but of course the reality is so different.

"I first went down there on one of the club's Christmas visits, taking a few presents to try to brighten some faces. It really hit home. I've got kids myself and I thought if I can do something to help then great.

606: DEBATE

"The club has a long association with the charity. The gaffer ran the marathon for them this year, and last year Jon Parkin and Russell Hoult had all-over body waxes.

"I daren't tell the missus that, though. She might like the idea and suggest I do the same. I'd rather get on a bike and just get sore on the saddle, thanks!"

With Delap and his Stoke team-mates due back for pre-season on 9 July, the ride has the added bonus of kick-starting the midfielder's fitness drive ahead of the new campaign.

It will be Stoke's second season in the top flight - and they surprised a host of experts last time out by not only avoiding relegation - they were favourites to go down at the start of the season - but by finishing as highly creditable 12th.

Despite that, the Potters are fifth favourites to go down next season, something that Delap, understandably, takes little notice of.

"Our performances and results last season surprised everyone - outside of Stoke," he said. "Within the camp we all had the belief we could do something.

"Of course it's one thing believing you can do it and another doing it, but it's exactly the same this year. I'm sure we can kick on and do even better than last term.

Rory Delap
I haven't been working on it in this break or anything. Saying that, I did throw a few stones into the sea with the kids, that's training of sorts I guess?!

Delap on his monster throw-in

"Our ultimate aim is survival again, of course, but we've got to look to better ourselves. I'm sure the manager will bring in a few players this summer and, along with the players we already have in the squad, we can cause a few upsets again."

One key to their success last season, of course, was Delap's ability to deliver a football into the area with venomous pace and accuracy by way of a throw-in.

Arsenal's was one of the more notable defences to creak under the Delap throw, and he promises more of the same next season.

"I get asked about it all the time, but it was effective so I can see why," he said.

"I'll have it in the armoury next season, sure, but I haven't been working on it or anything. Saying that, I did throw a few stones into the sea with the kids. That's training of sorts, I guess?!"

And don't think that being on the bike for hours on end every day has stopped Delap keeping tabs on the latest happenings in and around the game.

The former Republic of Ireland international had Stoke's fixtures for the new season phoned through to him - "Burnley at home first up, who knows if that's good or bad? It's only good if we win it" - while he, like many observers, is staggered by the money being spent by Real Madrid on the likes of Kaka and Cristiano Ronaldo.

"I don't suppose it's good for the game," he said. "If the money stays in the English game maybe it's not too bad, but I imagine a lot of it will go out to foreign clubs in transfers and so on. The divide between the haves and have-nots is getting bigger all the time.

"Still, I don't think Stoke will be targeting £50m players just yet, so we can just let them fight amongst themselves!"

Let's be honest, even if I was as good as Ronaldo I don't think I'd be able to mix in those circles

Delap on holidaying with Paris Hilton

Then, as Delap is barracked by his friends eager to get back on the road, I ask if any part of him wishes he could be spending his summer as Ronaldo is, with the Real Madrid-bound winger currently hanging out with the likes of Paris Hilton in Los Angeles.

"Not at all," he laughs. "I had a seven-day break with the family a couple of weeks ago and that's enough sun for me for the year.

"If I don't stick factor 50 on every two minutes, I'm crucified with my complexion. That would be me holed up in the hotel room for three days recovering.

"Let's be honest, even if I was as good as Ronaldo I don't think I'd mix in those circles. There's no way I'd be able to carry it off."

More modesty from a man not just helping to establish Stoke City as a permanent fixture in the Premier League calendar but also helping to make a real difference.

A far from normal summer for a far from normal footballer.



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see also
Stoke are wary of Burnley opener
18 Jun 09 |  Stoke
Man Utd start against Birmingham
17 Jun 09 |  Premier League
No second season syndrome - Delap
01 Jun 09 |  Stoke
Pulis expects new Stoke arrivals
16 Jun 09 |  Stoke
Burnley 1-0 Sheff Utd
25 May 09 |  Championship


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