Former Sunderland and Ipswich forward Marcus Stewart has been diagnosed with motor neurone disease.
The diagnosis for the 49-year-old, who is currently head of player development at National League club Yeovil, came after 12 months of testing, a joint statement from Yeovil and the Professional Footballers’ Association confirmed on Thursday.
Stewart, who also played for the Glovers as well as Bristol Rovers, Bristol City, Huddersfield, Preston and Exeter, said: “I would like to take the opportunity to thank those closest to me for their unwavering support since my recent diagnosis.
“As I take the time to adjust, my intention is to continue to enjoy my work in football and spend time with my family.
“In the future, I would like to use my platform within football to help raise awareness around MND, but in the short term, I would like to ask for privacy on behalf of myself and my family.”
Bristol-born Stewart began his professional career at Rovers in 1991 and in all made over 650 appearances for eight clubs.
When he left Huddersfield to join Ipswich in 2000 he became the Suffolk club’s record signing at that time.
He played in every tier of the English professional game and scored 19 Premier League goals for Ipswich, helping them to a fifth-place finish in the 2000-01 season and UEFA Cup qualification.
“Everyone at Yeovil Town and the PFA is committed to supporting Marcus and his family in whatever way we can,” the joint statement read.
“We know the same will be true of fans of Marcus’ previous clubs and the wider football family.”
Stewart and his wife Louise have set up a JustGiving page with all proceeds going to the Darby Rimmer MND Foundation.
The foundation was launched by former professional footballer Stephen Darby and armed forces veteran Chris Rimmer, who were both diagnosed with the disease. Rimmer died aged 39 in April of this year.
MND is a degenerative condition which affects the brain and nervous system. It is a life-shortening condition and there is no cure. Although the disease will progress, symptoms can be managed to achieve the best possible quality of life.
The 2019 FIELD study found professional footballers were approximately four times more likely to develop MND than age-matched members of the general population.
Another former professional player, Lenny Johnrose, died last month aged 52 after being diagnosed with MND in 2017.
Former Leeds Rhinos rugby league player Rob Burrow is living with the condition after his diagnosis in 2019, while in rugby union, former Gloucester lock Ed Slater, 34, announced at the end of July that he too had been diagnosed.