PLAYERS, officials and supporters of Altrincham have been left shocked and saddened by news that former Moss Lane favourite Mark Maddox has been diagnosed with motor neurone disease.

The 38-year-old, affectionately known as ‘Mad Dog’ for his wholehearted approach as the cornerstone of Alty’s defence, was told around Christmas time he had the same wasting illness that claimed the life of former England manager Don Revie.

Chairman Grahame Rowley revealed that Alty’s July 23 pre-season friendly against Tranmere has been set aside as a benefit match for Maddox and described how the long-serving centre-back visited Moss Lane to inform club officials of his condition.

“I sensed something might be wrong, because Mark had texted a few times, saying he needed to speak to me,” said Rowley. “He attended a game, near the end of the season, and I remember George Heslop coming into the directors’ box, just before half-time, and saying Mark wanted a word.

“I went down the steps, and we stood there in the mouth of the tunnel, with the game going on in the background, while he told me how he had been diagnosed with this terrible disease.

“It was one of the most upsetting experiences of my life. I headed towards the sponsors’ lounge, absolutely gutted, and my wife Karen asked what was wrong. I couldn’t speak. I was in tears.

“You’re talking about a true gentleman, as well as top defender, someone who was the heart and soul of the place throughout his 300-plus appearances for us. He is so unassuming, as well. When I said we would arrange a benefit game for him, he said: ‘It doesn’t matter. Don’t make any fuss’.

“We’ve talked him round, though, and I’m sure he’s going to be there, with his wife and children, for the Tranmere game.

“We’re contacting all his old team-mates, as well, to try and get them along. We want it to be special for him.”

Former Alty striker Rod Thornley sent a message to the Alty fans’ forum, saying: “This bloke is not only a legend to the fans but to the players who played alongside him. Mads is a great lad and, to me, a great friend, one of those you stay in touch with all your life. Please tell friends and relatives to come to this (benefit) game.”