Football icons Paul Scholes and Michael Owen have teamed up again to spearhead the second wave of Prostate Cancer UK’s Men United drive to keep friendships alive.The duo have joined former England cricket captain David Gower as the organisation, a leading force for men’s health, urges men to come together and help beat prostate cancer.
Scotland legend Denis Law and former Manchester City and England midfielder Mike Summerbee, have also pledged their support.
Men United is Prostate Cancer UK’s movement for everyone who believes men are worth fighting for, and joining the ever-growing squad will allow them to see their mates more, do something great together and help to beat prostate cancer.
In an imaginative partnership with the Spirit Pub Company, The Anchor Bankside, on London’s South Bank, will be temporarily known as The Men United Arms, creating a space to kick-start activities that bring men together and celebrate and inspire male friendships. Close pals Frank Sinclair and Ade Akinbiyi, who played together at Leicester City, attended the event launch from the historic hostelry while talkSPORT will broadcast a football forum, The Transfer Tavern, exclusively live from the venue on Thursday evening.
The Men United campaign will feature across different channels, reaching out to existing communities. A TV ad, created by award-winning director Tom Beard, which features a series of different scenes about the power, warmth and humour of male friendships, will run from today. A number of real friends, and men who have been affected by prostate cancer, including football fans, appear in the ad, alongside actors.
Scholes remains part of football’s most famous friendship networks, having come through the ranks at Old Trafford alongside David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Gary and Phil Neville and Nicky Butt.
The celebrated ‘Class of 92’ reunited for a film in 2013 and recently combined to purchase a stake in EVO-STIK Northern Premier League Division One North side Salford City FC, which will be the subject of a new BBC documentary.
Scholes’ affinity for Men United stemmed from his Oldham-based barbers shop and the news that his former Red Devils youth coach – and World Cup winner - Nobby Stiles is living with prostate cancer.
Often considered as one of the greatest midfielders of his generation, Scholes, 40, said: “Football and friendship goes hand in hand. I was lucky enough to graduate through the ranks at Manchester United with a special group of lads and we shared everything together for club and country – on and off the pitch.
“That bond has stood the test of time as we continue together on the other side of the white line, at Salford City FC.
“Having played for Man United it might be a bit difficult for me to say Men United at times, but it’s a great campaign with a great name and it would be great to see many more men join me by signing up.”
Prolific striker Owen, who came through the ranks at United’s fierce rivals Liverpool, regularly featured alongside Scholes for England before joining him at Old Trafford in 2009.
Last April, the 35-year-old raised more than £25,000 for Prostate Cancer UK by completing the Virgin Money London Marathon alongside best friend Mike Jones, a challenge stemming from a chat in their local pub.
Owen explained: “Mike and I have been best mates since we were very young and we always said that one day we would do the marathon together.
"It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but also one of the most inspiring and it was great to share that experience with Mike and everyone else representing Men United.
“My father had a skirmish with prostate cancer some time ago so I had no hesitation in signing up for the greatest team in men’s health. Please join me and support the battle against this deadly disease.”
Player-turned-presenter Gower, who will be anchoring Sky Sports’ coverage of the ICC Cricket World Cup from mid-February, hailed the harmony between the station’s high-profile pundits, including Ian Botham.
The 57-year-old, who is supporting the new Men United Sports Quiz in London on 12th February, said: “Ian has been a colleague of mine for more than 30 years, including 15 years as a player when we went all around the world together. We got into some interesting situations now and again, and are long-time buddies.
“I’ve also known Chris Cowdrey since a schools trip to South Africa and we have been close friends ever since. That’s a friendship that will endure, I’m sure, until the day we die.
“You need friends to share the same values, friends to share the same experiences and friends to understand equally that life is not just about cricket. Don’t get caught out by prostate cancer, sign for Men United.”
Aside from their success on the field in the red and blue halves of Manchester, long-time pals Law and Summerbee are also connected by prostate cancer, a disease that kills one man every hour.
Law said: “Me and Mike’s friendship was forged in football. We were teammates and roommates and also played against each other many times. Our bond remains as strong as ever to this day, and off the field something else indelibly links us – prostate cancer.
“I know what it’s like to be told you’ve got prostate cancer, and I know it’s a battle you don’t want to face alone. I’m so fortunate to have many friends that stood alongside me during such a testing time. Mike was there for me and I was there for him; that will never change. It’s great that a charity so close to my heart, Prostate Cancer UK, is recognising the true value of friendship and I’m proud to be part of Men United as we team up to save lives.”
Summerbee added: “I’m proud to sign for Men United, and proud to be part of a squad that not only includes international footballers, and stars from show business and the film industry, but men from all trades and all walks of life. Each and every one of us must all pull together to fight this killer disease, one that will affect one in eight men in their lifetime. I am one of those eight and with the help of Prostate Cancer UK we can work on making a change for the better.”
Owen Sharp, chief executive of Prostate Cancer UK, noted: "The power of sport will always unify groups of men, whether they are playing on the pitch, watching from the stands or debating the big decisions alongside their pals in the pub.
“Men United is our movement for everyone who believes men are worth fighting for. There is no transfer window either; you can sign up any time.
“We want men to catch up with their friends more often, to do something great together and help us beat prostate cancer. Whether it's big or small, signing a petition or running a marathon, doing it together is what really matters. We know what starts with a quick 'hello', a chat in the pub or a barbecue with mates, can end with a nationwide army of men - ready to fight for their friends, themselves and men everywhere."
Since it was launched 12 months ago, Men United has caught the imagination, and a new zeal for change in men’s health - with more than 200,000 people signing up to pledge support. Men from all walks of life, from footballers to lawyers and politicians to plumbers, have formed a growing army, raising funds to find the answers for the future through research and supporting men now.
People are being urged to search Men United, and sign up.