EFL Clubs and players have come together to support the 'Boot The Virus' campaign, created by two football fans for football fans, to help the fantastic work being carried out by the NHS.
Lifelong Preston North End supporter Kenny Marland and his partner Joanne Dalton have created the campaign to unite the football community across the UK in a bid to raise funds for the incredible NHS heroes.
The initiative is simple, with professional footballers asked to donate a pair of signed matchday boots which will then be auctioned online, with all of the funds raised going directly to the NHS.
North End season ticket holder Kenny, who travels to every game home and away, is currently undergoing chemotherapy treatment in his fourth battle against cancer and, speaking of the campaign, said: “I have a personal affinity with the NHS heroes due to my vulnerable situation, I am frustrated at having to stay at home when I would rather be volunteering to help the wonderful people at the NHS.
“I was pondering how I could combine my passion for football and help out, then the idea of Boot The Virus came to me in a chat with Joanne. I then put the idea into the notes section on my phone and sent a copy to Tom Clarke to see his thoughts. Tom said it was a good idea and that he would back the campaign. That then gave us the confidence and belief to give it a go! So, we are asking professional footballers from all the leagues in England to donate a pair of their signed matchday boots.”
"I know times are difficult right now, but the plan is for all donated items to go to an online auction via our website, giving fans the opportunity to own a piece of sporting memorabilia with 100 per cent of the monies raised going directly to the NHS. It helps the heroes in the NHS and brings some joy to football fans by owning such an item.”
“We have also included a section of the website for retired professionals who can also help us Boot The Virus if they want to donate any signed items.”
Clarke was the first player to commit to the campaign and is hoping many others will join him in supporting the initiative. Speaking about the campaign and the work Kenny is doing, he said: "I know of Kenny through my wife who met him through work, then he contacted me through Instagram and said he had this idea that he was doing with his partner to raise money for the NHS.
"He had a few ideas and he's worked hard over the last few weeks to build it up and I said I would help in any way I can and try to help them get it out there and get the campaign going.”
"I have spoken to Kenny on and off now for the last few weeks, he's going through chemotherapy at the moment which is really difficult for him and his family so to even be thinking about doing things for other people is brilliant and testament to how strong he is and how strong he's being through all of it.”
"We are all trying to do our bit and thinking of ways we can help and how to help the NHS and those struggling at the moment.”
Leeds United, Fulham, Cardiff City, Bolton Wanderers, Exeter City and Bradford City are just a few of the Clubs that are getting involved, with current and former EFL stars - including Leicester City's James Maddison and players from Carabao Cup winners Manchester City - also showing their support.
The first of the auctions will take place on Friday 1 May. For more info, click here.