Steel City derby: Why the result won't matter for Owl Bill and Blade Gary

Blade Gary Birch and Wednesdayite Bill
Blade Gary Birch and Wednesdayite Bill

Both Owls and Blades fans will be wishing on their lucky stars to get one over on their fiercest rivals across the city.

But not Wednesdayite Bill Wood and his United friend Gary Birch who won't give two hoots how the score ends up in the 128th competitive Steel City Derby this Sunday.

The two men from opposing sides of this illustrious footballing city were both diagnosed with prostate cancer months apart and their bond won't divided when the two clubs clash.

The time has come again after a long five-and-half-year wait for the fans' banter, gibes and the steely determination to win to secure the bragging rights - but to these two mates, football takes a back seat.

The pair, who have both now had surgery to remove their prostates, are keen to speak about the danger signs. They said this game means more to them than any other but in a different way.

“It’s not about the score; it’s about being at the game when I didn’t know if I would be able to before. That may sound dramatic to some people but to be diagnosed with cancer is a real shock; your entire world is turned upside down. Everything seems to stop - work, family, social life – all because of the word ‘cancer,’” said Bill, 65, from Holmesfield.

Unitedite Gary, 56, added: “If you’d asked me a year ago if I wanted to have my photo in the derby day programme talking about my illness I would have told you that there was more chance of me buying a season ticket at Hillsborough. But if Bill and I can convince one man reading this to go to get checked, it’s worth it.”

“We stand at opposite sides of the ground as rivals, but we’ll always be on the same team. We’re cancer survivors. We owe thanks to the amazing healthcare professionals who operated on us and cared for us. We owe a lot to our family and friends who have stuck by us and encouraged us.

"Please use our story today as an example, and a reason, to get checked and keep on top of regular appointments. We’ve been lucky, some aren’t as fortunate.”

Bill said:“As I take to my seat in the North stand, I’ll just be Bill the Wednesdayite again. I’ll cheer, I’ll shout, I’ll clap and I’ll sing. That’s something I didn’t know if I’d be able to do just a few short months ago. I’m eternally grateful to our healthcare system and to Prostate Cancer UK for supporting me, and my family, through this.”

Gary is taking part in the Grand Depart Classic next June to raise money for Prostate Cancer UK - to sponsor him and help to support more people like Gary and Bill, head to their fundraising page here

To find out more about prostate cancer and the risk signs visit Prostate Cancer UK's website here.