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“I’m aware I might die any time” says ex-Blackburn, Hartlepool, Bury, Burnley, Swansea player

“I’m aware I might die any time” says ex-Blackburn, Hartlepool, Bury, Burnley, Swansea player Lenny Johnrose on life with MND.

It is just over five years since the former footballer was diagnosed with motor neurone disease, and continues to live with the debilitating illness, gradually deteriorating as time goes by.

But, as the 52-year-old sits at home speaking through the aid of a gridpad, a device which is programmed with recordings of his own voice and also allows him to control his television and lights, he speaks with the BBC on how he is doing.

“I’m not too bad actually. I keep expecting to suddenly hit the wall but I feel pretty good,” he told BBC Radio Lancashire.

Johnrose banked his voice before his symptoms got worse, allowing him to have a conversation but via a screen which then plays what he has to say.

“Those who know me know how important it is for me to be heard. For a while that was really difficult,” he continued.

“You only record a few words and the technology does the rest. The advances in the technology mean it can now be done much faster.

“I did it in about 40 minutes and obviously hoped I’d never need it.”

Johnrose spoke about his diagnosis to BBC Radio Lancashire in 2018, a year after finding out talking about the disease and how it felt when told how debilitating it is.

“I’m certainly aware of little changes, mainly to do with movements and getting comfortable. But I really think I’ve been comparatively fortunate,” he said.

“My mind is as positive as ever. I’m still aware that I might die at any time. But that would be the case irrespective of having MND. So yes, things have changed. But I don’t really think about them.

“I’m more concerned with the constant saliva and constant constipation – but there you go, could be worse.”


Football can be a bittersweet thing to enjoy, not least for someone like Johnrose, who had an illustrious career across the Football League.

But, with four of Lancashire’s clubs congregating in the Championship this season – Preston and Blackpool are also in the second tier alongside his former sides Burnley and Blackburn – is he looking forward to the upcoming season?

“I actually can’t believe I’m saying this but I really can’t wait,” he added. “That’s what mental health issues have done to me. I actually started watching and enjoying football and now even miss it.

“So as gutted as I was to see Burnley relegated [from the Premier League], it’s made things more interesting.”


Since being diagnosed with MND, he has worked closely with the MND Association to raise funds and awareness of the disease.

In 2018, after revealing his diagnosis on BBC Radio Lancashire, two lifelong friends set up The Len Johnrose Trust to help Len achieved his goal to raise awareness, and to live as full a life as possible.

Len has been happily married to wife, Nadine, since 2001, and has three children – daughters Chanel and Elizabeth, and son Patrick.

Len’s football career started at Blackburn Rovers, where he signed schoolboy forms at the age of 14.

After making his debut while still an apprentice, he signed his first professional contract, in 1988.

He made over 40 appearances before he made the switch to Hartlepool United.

Financial difficulties at the club meant that Len was sold less than 2 years later, to Bury FC. Success was soon to follow in the form of two successive promotions before a move to fellow North West club, Burnley saw him experience a 3rd promotion in 5 years.

After being transferred to Swansea City, Len scored the 3rd goal in a 4-2 victory against Hull City on the final day of the season, a result that maintained their league status and ultimately became the springboard to future successes.

Len finished his footballing career back at Burnley FC, having made 500 league and cup appearances, scoring 50 goals.

After retiring from football in 2004, Len worked as a fitness coach at Leeds United Football Club. He had a brief spell working at a children’s home before moving on to a local charity in Preston, helping cardiac patients.

Whilst playing football, Len completed a Sports Science degree, and went into further education during his spell at the charity; this time to qualify as a primary school teacher. After 6 successful years, he was forced to retire following his diagnosis of motor neurone disease.

A Fightback Fund is a powerful way to join the fight against MND. It brings friends and family together with one goal – beating this terrible disease.

Every pound raised from the Fightback Fund will help make more cutting-edge research happen, whilst helping to care for more people, living with MND, TODAY!

Donate on Len’s fundraising page by clicking HERE.

“I’m aware I might die any time” says the ex-Blackburn, Hartlepool, Bury, Burnley, Swansea player as fans react to his interview…

@DaleClarets: All the best Len.. extremely brave fella 👍

@NFLstatsMAN: It’s wonderful to see that no matter what, the sense of humour never goes. Top man 👏👏👏

@dai_dont_sleep: Forever a Swans legend 👏🏻

@Waynetheref: My brother died from MND back in 2019, and he never lost his sense of humour.❤️

@swanseachris1: Top man and a legend YJB 👏👋👏👋👏👋

@huffy58: Keep going Lenny 👏👏👏👏👏👏💪💪👍

@DebsL64: Oh God bless him. This despicable disease has no barriers. My sons are completing a sponsored 100 mile bike ride in aid of #MNDA this weekend. This is their 4th event and have raised just short of £10,000.

@accy69: Stay strong @LJohnrose

@Iddonpup: We’re all with you Lenny. 100% behind you buddy. Keep strong.

@stelock89: Stay strong Len all at @Official_HUFC are with you ❤️

@DawnBeecroft: God bless you @LJohnrose. It’s heartbreaking to see the damage this debilitating disease does to once fit and healthy men and women. Love to you and your family, from mine, both in the UK and here in Ireland. @beek149 💙💙💙💙💙

@MarkPearce6: Brave player, brave man.

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