A former captain of Birmingham City FC is in hospital battling blood cancer.
Former defender Gary Ablett, aged 44, was taken ill last week just days after agreeing a one-year coaching contract with Championship side Ipswich Town.
Ablett is currently in hospital in Suffolk with his family beside him after he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma – the same form of cancer that ex-Arsenal midfielder David Rocastle died from in 2001.
He had been due to sit alongside manager Roy Keane on the Portman Road bench for the first time in Saturday’s friendly with West Ham.
Keane said: “Gary was taken ill at the training ground and taken to hospital. He is getting the best of treatment.”
Birmingham City spokesman Chris Kershaw said that everyone associated with the club was wishing him well.
“Gary was an extremely popular player with Blues, with his colleagues, staff at the club and supporters too, so everyone at the club was saddened to hear the news.
“Our thoughts are with Gary and his family and we wish him well with his treatment. Everyone at St Andrew’s is thinking of him.”
Ablett won two league titles and an FA Cup with Liverpool before moving across Stanley Park where he again lifted the FA Cup with Everton.
Birmingham fans will remember him for his whole-hearted displays in the centre of defence during a three-year spell in the city.
After arriving at St Andrew’s, he quickly established a formidable partnership with Steve Bruce between 1996-98.
When Bruce left to become player-manager of Sheffield United, Ablett took over the captaincy of Blues.