John scores for hospital after skin cancer scare

The two teams form Sheffield Forgemasters that are taking part in the tournament - front row, Blades shirt, John Freeman.
The two teams form Sheffield Forgemasters that are taking part in the tournament - front row, Blades shirt, John Freeman.

A FATHER-OF-FOUR whose wife spotted the early signs of skin cancer will tackle local footballing legends with work colleagues to raise money for the Sheffield hospital that saved his life.

John Freeman, a quality engineer with Sheffield Forgemasters, signed up for Weston Park Hospital Cancer Charity’s five-a-side tournament four months after receiving the all-clear.

Forgemasters are entering teams to play against former Blades and Owls stars in The Team of Steel Cup at Bramall Lane on Sunday, May 26.

John, aged 47, of Frecheville, who will captain the machining team, 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.”

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

“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.

“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.”

John has a secret weapon - his nephew and Chesterfield FC player Scott Boden will be coaching the machining team!

Two of the local legends are Carl Bradshaw, who played for both Wednesday and United, and former Owls striker John Pearson. Howard Webb will referee the final.

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

Blades fan Les, aged 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.

“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.”

Proceeds will go to Weston Park Cancer Charity’s ‘Do Your Bit Campaign’, which targets £1.3m for a new cancer research and treatment suite.

The photo shows the two teams from Sheffield Forgemasters, including John Freeman (front row in a Blades’ shirt), Les Blackwell (middle row, Blades’ shirt) and company chairman Tony Pedder (back row, middle, white shirt).