Former Rovers midfielder Len Johnrose, alongside a team of high-profile sportspeople, presenters and fans, has launched a bid to raise £92,000 for research into the disease which has confined him to a wheelchair.
Through Project 92, the former footballer is aiming to mobilise the footballing community into supporting the Motor Neurone Disease Association.
Starring alongside Len in the Project 92 film are: Sky Sports presenters Jeff Stelling and Jacqui Oatley, England and Manchester City’s Ellen White, Nigeria and Everton’s Alex Iwobi, Cardiff City’s Sol Bamba, Chief Executive of the PFA Gordon Taylor, Swansea City ambassador Lee Trundle and former Liverpool defender Stephen Darby, who himself was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease (MND) in 2018.
Len said: “Project 92 is my way of doing something positive for people with MND, now and into the future. There is some research suggesting a link between sport and MND, so football seemed like the perfect platform to not only raise funds, but raise awareness of the disease. With the help of some of my old football mates and contacts and supporters of the MND Association, we’ve managed to get a bit of a footballing all-star cast together.”
In the short film, ideal for sharing on social media channels, the presenters share the brutal facts about MND. It ends with Len’s plea for the footballing community to join together in raising money for research into the disease which has no effective treatment and no cure.
Len, who was diagnosed with the disease in March 2017, added: “We don’t really know what causes this disease yet, but what we do know is that finding out is imperative in order to find a cure.
“I’ve had a great life, I’m genuinely happy with my life. If it ends tomorrow, next week or next year, so be it, but it’s my aim to raise awareness and vital funds before that time comes, so other people don’t have to live through what my family and the families of others living with MND are going through. If that happens during my lifetime, I’ll be satisfied I’ve done what I can.
“I’ve met researchers who have told me that progress is being made all the time and that we’re in a better place now than we have ever been. We all need to support this research by pitching in together to tackle MND. Hopefully, I can support that work by raising money with this video.”
Len, who started his long playing career at Ewood Park, scored 12 goals in 50 appearances in Rovers colours, before playing for the likes of Preston, Hartlepool, Bury, Burnley and Swansea. After retiring, he retrained as a teacher, but his career in the classroom was cut short by his diagnosis.
He lives in Preston with this wife Nadine and teenagers Elizabeth and Patrick. Before the pandemic, Len, who is now 50, had begun giving talks at football clubs around the country, sharing his experience of MND.
He said: “People don’t really know about MND unless they’ve been affected by it, so I really want to get the message out there. It was great to go into the football clubs and talk to players and backroom staff about MND and what they can do to help. They have all been really receptive and each and every one of them wanted to do something to support the project.
“The Covid restrictions mean I can’t visit clubs at the moment, so the Project 92 video is my way of continuing to bang the drum. If we can raise money at the same time as awareness, then all well and good.”
The Project 92 film, which premiered on Sky Sports on Saturday can be viewed here: https://youtu.be/JjTWLJBquu8