John Hartson tears up as talkSPORT host Sam Matterface thanks Celtic legend for saving his life during emotional chat about cancer, gambling and depression


John Hartson was a giant of a footballer, but even the biggest aren’t immune from the things which can send entire worlds crashing down.

The legendary Celtic striker has experienced some of the greatest highs imaginable, from scoring 30-yard screamers at Anfield to winning six major titles with the Hoops.

Hartson is forever written into Celtic folklore

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Hartson is forever written into Celtic folklore

But in a deeply moving interview with talkSPORT’s Sam Matterface for our latest episode of Up Front With, Hartson insists it’s overcoming life’s lows which brings him the most pride.

In 2009, the Welshman was diagnosed with Stage-Four testicular cancer, and entered a critical condition which could’ve signalled the end of his life.

Survival brought relief, but also mental scarring as Hartson fought against depression and a gambling addiction.

It’s difficult to put the 45-year-old’s experiences into words, so here’s how he describes it: “When I finished playing football, I carried this gambling addiction around with me.

“I got testicular cancer that spread to my lungs and my brain, I spent six weeks in hospital, I had two emergency brain operations.

John Hartson tries to maintain a positive outlook on life

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John Hartson tries to maintain a positive outlook on life

“And I had a divorce which felt like my heart was ripped out of my chest and stamped all over. That’s how much a divorce takes out of you.

“I’m not someone who’s had this perfect life. I’ve had issues and I’ve made mistakes.

“I never sought help, but there’s no doubt I’ve had depression and I’ve had mental health issues, it’s impossible not to feel down.

“But I’ve always tried to pick myself up. That’s not the way with mental health, you’ve got to talk and get help.

“The most important thing in my life now is my children and my health. If I don’t do another gig in football, that’s alright. I’ve got a house that’s paid for and a few quid around me.

“I’m a very normal, humble guy from Swansea who happened to have this incredible career, I actually get a bit embarrassed when people want a picture.”

Hartson was some player in his prime

Getty Images – Getty

Hartson was some player in his prime

But to talkSPORT’s Sam Matterface, Hartson is far more than just a normal guy from Swansea – he’s the man who saved his life.

Matterface was diagnosed with testicular cancer three months after Hartson, having been pushed to get himself checked by the Welshman’s story.

“You saved my life,” he told Hartson. “Because I never would’ve challenged my doctors to keep checking me as much as they did before I was eventually diagnosed with testicular cancer three months after you.

“If it wasn’t for your highly-publicised illness, I never would have known.”

Audibly emotional, Hartson tears up as he responds, revealing just how close he came to death.

John Hartson recalls ‘favourite ever goal’ against boyhood club Liverpool and holding ‘keys to the city’ of Glasgow with goal record against Rangers

He said: “My message to people would be: do as I say and not as I did. Go and get checked if you have a lump and don’t leave it four years like I did.

“It was very close at one stage, I nearly lost my life.

“I’m blessed to have got through that experience. I’ve tried on every radio show over the last ten years. I can talk about anything, but when it’s your life, and your family, and your children, that’s what gets you.”

Listen to the full clip through the video at the top of this article – and catch the full interview on talkSPORT at 8pm on Saturday.

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