Marina says old boys are ready to play again

This afternoon sees Anfield host another Merseyside derby, and although this one isn’t official as such, calling it a friendly may just be stretching things a touch. The game is being played in aid of The Marina Dalglish Appeal and recreates as far as possible the first ever all-Merseyside FA Cup Final which was played in 1986 at Wembley. Marina is wife of Liverpool legend Kenny Dalglish and her charity aims to raise funds for cancer research, including the hope that they can build a new breast cancer centre of excellence at Aintree hospital.

Some of the most successful players of all time will be lining up for Liverpool against possibly Everton’s most successful players. Liverpool’s Alan Hansen and Ian Rush will line up against the likes of Peter Reid and Graeme Sharp. King Kenny is going to be player-manager again for the day, with Howard Kendall taking charge of the blues, just like 20 years ago. It was Liverpool who brought the silverware home back then with a 3-1 win, and Everton want revenge.

As the lady who has looked after our legend for all these years, Marina is held in high regard by all Reds, and a massive crowd is expected for this afternoon’s game. That high regard is also felt by the players that played for, with and against Kenny over the years, which is why so many were prepared to go through the pain of getting back into shape for the game rather than spending an easy bank holiday Monday on the golf course. Marina spoke to Scotland’s Daily Record about her new life working for the appeal. After seeing the children leave home – Paul and Kelly being the most well-known – she’s now putting a lot of time and effort into working on her appeal, something started after she herself suffered from breast cancer.

She told the newspaper that this is the first time she’s ever really
had a job as such: “I’m kept very busy with the Appeal. Much busier
than before. The kids have moved away and I’ve got a job for the first
time in my life. Before, we moved about so much and I had four young
children so I never worked. But now the kids have left home and I have
a job so everything’s fallen into place.”

Marina was first given the devastating news she had breast cancer three
years ago. It was a routine check and came out of the blue because
there is no history of it in her family. She didn’t think about herself
first though – she wanted to know if her daughters would now be at
higher risk. As she recalls: “That was the first thing I asked –
whether it was hereditary. I wanted to know if I needed to get the
girls checked. But the medical staff said there was no reason to. Even
if someone carries the gene, it doesn’t mean they will develop cancer.
But I think my girls are probably more aware than most young women
because their mother had breast cancer.”

Marina has now been confirmed as being all-clear from the disease.
She’s aware it could always come back, but refuses to let that sort of
thinking take any major place in her life: “With cancer you never know.
The medical team that I’m with in Liverpool say you’ve either got
cancer or you’ve not. At the moment I don’t have it. I don’t worry
about it coming back. I have never been a person who gets anxious about
things. I do think about it, but it’s not taken over my life.”

Her attitude to the illness is that it was something bad, but is
something that is in her history, not the future: “I just get on with
things. It’s completely behind me, something that happened to me in the
past. Obviously I’m really glad that I’ve come through it because I
know a lot of people don’t.”

After getting over the illness Marina and the rest of the family were
desperate to give something back. “I wanted to give something back to
the people who treated me. I think everyone wants to give the staff
something, be it a box of chocolates or a bunch of flowers. We asked
what they needed. We thought it would be a new machine, but they said
they needed a new chemotherapy centre. So we started raising funds for
that – we’ve raised nearly £1million now.”

Today’s game will increase the profile of the appeal and bring more
cash in. It’s expected to attract a big crowd, and is also being
televised by Sky One. Marina says this game is big even without the
good cause it’s all being done for: “It’s the 20th anniversary of the
first FA Cup Final between Liverpool and Everton. It’s a big, big game
and we’ve got all the old players back. Hopefully we’ll raise a lot of
money. We’ve got nearly everyone from the original two teams. There’s
Kenny, Alan Hansen, and Stevie Nichol is coming over from America.”

Marina also revealed the funny side of seeing players trying to
recreate a game they played when they were 20 years younger: “They’ve
all been in training, it’s hilarious. They’re taking it very seriously.
We all went out for a meal the other night and we had all the wives on
one side and the men on the other and we passed the water down to them.
That’s all they were allowed. We drank their wine.”

The King has been working on his figure too: “Kenny’s been going to the
gym and he’s lost a bit of weight. He’s just can’t wait to get back on
the pitch. I don’t think they’re worried about injuries though because
it doesn’t matter. It’s not like they have another game coming up.”

Marina’s illness raised awareness of the condition amongst women, as
did the recent news that Australian singer Kylie Minogue had contracted
the disease. Marina says she felt shocked when she heard Kylie had
fallen ill: “When I first heard about Kylie I thought, ‘Oh my goodness’
because she’s so young. It was a shock because I always think of her as
the young girl she was when she first became famous. She just seemed
very young to be suffering from cancer, but when I saw the pictures of
her recently with her hair growing back and how well she was looking,
that’s a really good lift for people who are going through treatment at
the moment. To see Kylie doing so well and looking great sends a good
message to other women with breast cancer.”

After her diagnosis Marina spent a lot of time looking on the internet
for a way of getting treatment, or more information. She says that
those raising money for different cancer charities are bringing the
world closer to a cure: “I went on to look into treatments and get more
information. I wanted to find out as much as I could. My daughter Kelly
was always on the internet too, asking me had I seen this or seen that;
but I think with cancer you’re better taking things one step at a time.
There is no cure yet, although new drugs are being talked about all the

One of the other charities Marina is behind is the Race for Life
initiative. This event encourages women to get sponsors before
embarking on a 5k run, and the emphasis is not on winning, but on
taking part. This taking part could help to the finding of a cure one
day: “That’s where Race for Life comes in. It raises money for Cancer
Research UK, which leads to new drugs like Herceptin. It means people
who have breast cancer now have a much better chance of survival than
they did 10 or 20 years ago which is fantastic. The progress,
especially with breast cancer has been unbelievable.”

Herceptin is the controversial drug that in some parts of the country
health authorities have refused to prescribe. Ann Marie Rogers came to
prominence in her battle to prove she had a right to the drug, going to
court three times before her health authority were force to give her
the drug. Marina sees why it can be difficult to provide the drug, but
feels it’s wrong for different people to get different treatment
depending on where they live: “If it was me or my daughter who needed
the drug then of course I would want it, but you have to wonder where
the money’s going to come from within the NHS. My treatment alone must
have cost thousands and thousands. The NHS isn’t a bottomless pit, but
I do think everyone should be allowed to get the same treatment no
matter where in the country they live.”

Marina had to undergo surgery and then had to endure chemotherapy, nine
months of it. Then she had a breast reconstruction operation and in
typical positive fashion said that part was like having a boob job: “I
didn’t really like my boobs, so having the operation didn’t really
bother me. As you get older and after having four children, they
weren’t in great shape and they weren’t something that I particularly
liked when I took my clothes off. For me, I look on it like I’ve had a
boob job. I would have liked to have had one, but I don’t think I would
have been brave enough. So having the breast reconstruction has taken
care of that for me. In a strange way it’s a kind of silver lining to
having had the cancer. I can wear clothes now that I couldn’t have worn
before, so I really don’t have a problem with it.”

She does understand how different it might be for someone younger
though: “It’s a completely different problem for me losing my boobs, to
a 25-year-old woman losing her boobs. I had been married for 30 years
and raised my children, but if you’re a young woman and you need
chemotherapy, you don’t know if you will be able to have a family.”

Today’s match has a serious reason for being played, but she’s looking
forward to a day of fun: “I’m really looking forward to the game, it
could be hilarious. Just getting everyone together is going to be
great. There will be people there that we’ve not seen in years. Instead
of footballers’ wives, it will be footballers’ mothers.”

Steve Nicol is one of those set to play, and he had to make a quick
dash to get over in time. Now head coach of New England Revolution in
the States, the team owned by Robert Kraft, Nicol was determined not to
miss the event. He arranged for a flight to bring him straight to the
UK after his side had finished their game against Chicago.
Unfortunately the team lost 2-1, but at least Nicol got to leave the
post-match interviews to assistant Paul Mariner. To make sure he got
his flight he was given a full state police escort to Logan Airport.
Speaking about the game Nicol showed how enthusiastic he was about
renewing old acquaintances: “The last time I played there was in 1997
or 1998, so I’m looking forward to it. It’ll be great to see the boys,
great to play at Anfield and great to play in front of a big crowd
there again. It’ll be a sell-out crowd.”

Nicol has been doing his own training during the Revolution’s training
sessions, and has lost over a stone in the process. He knows he had to
do this because of how much the two sets of players are taking it
seriously: “The two teams that are playing are going to be at it. It
may be a charity game, but it’s Liverpool vs. Everton. I know everyone
is going to be training and getting fit, so we’re going to be going at
it. We’re going to be taking seriously, both teams.”

Unfortunately for the former utility man, Nicol isn’t going to be able
to hang around for long afterwards – he’s expected to be back running a
training session in the states on Wednesday morning in advance of
Revolution’s weekend fixture against Los Angeles.