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John Hartson kicks off colourful 'Know Your Balls' campaign

Celtic legend John Hartson was joined by a number of his footballing chums to kick off his new testicular cancer awareness campaign.

The former striker – who fought a life-threatening battle with the disease in 2009 – teed off the ‘Know Your Balls!’ drive at his charity’s annual golf day.

Former Celtic stars Alan Stubbs and Chris Sutton, ex-Rangers boss Walter Smith and BBC’s The Voice talent show winner Stevie McCrorie were among 25 sports and showbiz stars backing the John Hartson Foundation at the five-star Mar Hall Golf and Spa Resort, Bishopton, near Glasgow.

And Hartson’s buddies were each kitted out in funky flat caps and spectacular golf trousers from Scotland’s brightest golf clothing brand, Royal & Awesome, which helped support the event.

Hartson had ignored two lumps on his right testicle for four years and by the time his cancer was diagnosed it had spread to his lungs and brain and left him fighting for his life.

The dad-of-five, who recently turned 40, said: “I was 34 when my cancer was diagnosed and at one point I thought I’d never see my 40th birthday. I had 67 courses of chemotherapy and two brain operations which could easily have been avoided if I’d known more about the signs of testicular cancer.”

Hartson – who was also capped 51 times for Wales – is now passionate about encouraging men to self-check for any worrying symptoms, as early diagnosis is vital.

The John Hartson Foundation’s new ‘Know Your Balls!’ campaign provides mini-advice cards with a three-step guide to self-checking, in a bid to ensure men are aware of any changes and encourage them to see a doctor if they’re concerned. Hibernian head coach Alan Stubbs – who beat testicular cancer in 1999, only to battle a spinal tumour just 18 months later – has given his backing to Hartson’s mission to raise awareness.

He said: “I had no hesitation in supporting such a wonderful cause. From my own experience, I know how important it is to get the word out about looking after your health.”

Voice winner McCrorie, from Alva, Clackmannanshire – who works as a fireman – said: “Men are notoriously bad at looking after their health. I think this is a fantastic idea and I’ll be encouraging my colleagues to make sure they ‘know their balls’ from now on!”

The John Hartson Foundation golf day is in its second year and among the team captains for the Texas Scramble this year were Insane Fight Club wrestler Grado, former Liverpool hard man Neil ‘Razor’ Ruddock, ex-Celtic boss Neil Lennon and former Rangers manager All McCoist. Celtic legends Frank McAvennie, Murdo MacLeod, Andy Walker, Bobby Petta; ex-Dundee United star Andy McLaren; and former Ibrox stars Andy Goram, Bert Konterman, Derek Johnstone and Gordon Smith also took part. The celebrities were all bedecked in the spectacular golf trousers and funky caps of Scotland’s most colourful clothing company, Royal & Awesome – one of the event’s sponsors.

Royal & Awesome brand director Graeme Smeaton was delighted to sponsor the event. He said: “Royal & Awesome is always keen to support worthy events. We’re thrilled to be able to help raise money for such a cause and glad that, in kitting out the event’s competitors with our bright colours, we’re able to highlight a very important message.”