6:20am Friday 2nd May 2014
By Simon Parker
Stephen Darby is happy to let his hair down on the final day of the season - but then again, City’s ever-present right back has been doing it for months.
Darby has been a cut above up to now and is widely tipped to be named Telegraph & Argus/JCT 600 player of the year next week.
But there is no danger of his form dropping off in the last game – Darby’s decision to let his locks loose is a show of support for Joe Thompson.
The 25-year-old Tranmere winger, who played alongside Darby for Rochdale, was diagnosed with a form of throat cancer earlier this season and is nearly at the end of a six-month course of chemotherapy.
The ‘Grow 4 Joe’ campaign – which involves players, football staff and fans from all divisions growing their hair – was set up to raise awareness and funds for leukaemia and lymphoma research. So far the figure has topped £8,000.
Hence the bouncing 1970s-style barnet that Darby is sporting and team-mate Kyle Bennett’s afro.
Darby said: “When Joe found out (about his cancer), a couple of the Tranmere lads came up with this idea to show their support. I thought it would be a good idea. I’d have joined in with the beard as well if I could grow one!
“I started at the end of November and it does drive me nuts at times. But it’s for a great cause and the response for Joe has been terrific.
“I was with him for a season and he’s a great lad. He’s a good player as well and hopefully we’ll see him back on the pitch soon enough. But I’ll be cutting it tomorrow night straight after the game.”
Coming from Liverpool, Darby knows how much staying in League One means to Tranmere – and is braced for a furious onslaught.
He said: “It’s going to be 100mph and we can’t afford to treat the game lightly. It’s going to be intense and we’ve got to be able to match that.
“It’s not the end of the season just yet and we’ve all got something to play for.
“When I was younger, Tranmere had a couple of good cup runs but obviously they are always in the shadows of Liverpool and Everton.
“But they’ve got a loyal fanbase and I’m sure the fans will come out in their numbers, so we’ve got to be on our game.”
James Hanson is ruled out again but Rory McArdle has recovered from the whack above the eye which forced him off in the win over Crawley.
Mark Yeates is hoping for another opportunity to finish his difficult campaign on a happier note. The Irishman’s start last week was his first since before Christmas.
The midfielder said: “It’s common knowledge that any footballer is going to be frustrated if they’re not playing. But this club is a great place to be.
“Tranmere is going to be a proper game because they are fighting for their lives. The gaffer and Steve Parkin won’t let anyone think that it’s our holidays – not that we would be anyway.
“We want to finish with another win and hopefully, if I’m selected, it will be a nice way to leave an impression going into the summer.
“People do remember the last game of the season and you want to leave them with positive thoughts, not just about the team but individuals themselves.”
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