Former Ipswich striker Marcus Stewart hopes the club’s generosity in raising funds for the Darby Rimmer MND Foundation through a new kit launch will continue to help give a voice to others with the disease.
Ipswich’s new shirts, again sponsored by Ed Sheeran, are their fastest selling so far as the Tractor Boys gear up for a return to the Sky Bet Championship having won promotion from League One last season.
For every home shirt sold during July, the Suffolk club will make a donation of £2 to the Darby Rimmer MND Foundation in support of Stewart’s fundraising efforts for the charity following his own diagnosis for motor neurone disease last year.
Ipswich Town this morning have launched their new 2023/24 kit 😍sponsored again by Ed Sheeran.
The club are supporting Marcus and MND by kindly donating £2 from every home shirt sold in July to the Darby Rimmer MND Foundation.
Marcus is also part of the marketing for the kit. pic.twitter.com/SGum5quXPg
— Darby Rimmer MND Foundation (@DarbyRimmerMND) July 1, 2023
Over the course of the first weekend of record sales – which saw the new home kit worn in Town’s opening pre-season friendly against Felixstowe & Walton United on Saturday – more than £11,000 was raised.
The home shirt is inspired by Ipswich’s 1999-2000 campaign which ended in promotion via the Championship play-off final at Wembley, before going on to finish fifth back in the top flight the following season.
Stewart scored 19 league goals – coming second behind Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and ahead of Thierry Henry in the race for the Golden Boot – which helped George Burley’s team secure qualification for the UEFA Cup.
The former Town frontman, 50, has been taken aback by how well the new kit has been received and so bringing in welcome additional funds for the charity
“I don’t think the club have sold that many new kits on the first day ever,” Stewart told the PA news agency.
“Ipswich have been great. We haven’t approached them about getting these things to happen, it is them who have come up with the ideas.
“They have been very proactive in helping out the charity in a big way and it all creates awareness as well.”
Stewart’s own diagnosis came after 12 months of testing and was revealed during September last year.
MND is a degenerative condition which affects the brain and nervous system. It is a life-shortening disease and there is no cure. Although it will progress, symptoms can be managed to achieve the best possible quality of life.
Currently head of player development at National League South club Yeovil, another of his old teams, Stewart, supported by his wife Louise, hopes to continue to front campaigns for the Darby Rimmer MND Foundation while he is able.
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 last year.
Former Leeds Rhinos rugby league player Rob Burrow is living with the condition after his diagnosis in 2019.
Burrow’s former team-mate Kevin Sinfield is another who has helped improve awareness of MND and raised millions of pounds for charity through his endurance efforts.
“I am lucky. At the moment, I still have got my voice, still have got my mobility,” said Stewart, who played in every tier of the English professional game.
“I have a little bit of a profile, not as big as Kev and Rob, but I am there to be the voice of the people who haven’t got a profile, who haven’t got mobility and a voice because of the disease.
“As long as I am well and good – I am still exercising and able to work – I am going to do my best to get out there and be a voice for the other people while I can, like Kev and a lot of people are doing for MND, the silent ones who are doing their bit in their own time.”
Stewart has lost grip in his left hand since being diagnosed and has a weak arm, but continues to hold a positive outlook.
“The initial shock, of course, was quite hard to take for a lot of people, but we are all trying to get on with life and just living in the moment,” said Stewart, who began his professional career at home-town club Bristol Rovers before a successful spell at Huddersfield and stints with Ipswich, Sunderland, Bristol City, Preston, Yeovil and Exeter.
“The past two or three months, everything has settled down a bit and been pretty much normal now for most of the family really. We are a pretty positive group of people.”
:: The Stewart family are raising funds for the Darby Rimmer MND Foundation. For more information, visit justgiving.com/team/teamstewart254