Blackpool FC hero Brett Ormerod has been putting in plenty of hard work at the gym in readiness for his final goodbye to the fans on Sunday.
Ormerod will be the centre of attention at his testimonial match that afternoon at AFC Fylde’s new ground at Mill Farm, kick-off 3pm.
Ormerod’s Tanagerine All-Stars will take on a side assembled by Coasters’ manager Dave Challinor.
Some of the proceeds from the match, hosted by Fylde and organised by Blackpool Supporters’ Trust, will go towards a fund set up to help former Seasiders’ player and coach Gary Parkinson, who has been seriously incapacitated by ‘locked-in syndrome’ following a stroke.
Ormerod finally retired from the game at the end of last year at the age of 39, following a distinguished, successful career that included a history-making landmark as he became the first and only Blackpool player to score in each of the top four divisions of the English game.
He said: “I haven’t kicked a ball since last Christmas, and I have been on the treadmill for the last two weeks, trying to get fit for Sunday.
“I can’t promise that I will last the full 90 minutes but I will certainly be getting my boots on again.”
Among those supporting Ormerod’s big day are Matt Gilks, Paul Rachubka, Stephen Crainey, John Hills, Barry Shuttleworth, Ian Evatt, Danny Coid, Alex Baptiste, Charlie Adam, David Vaughan, Jamie Milligan, Keith Southern, Phil Clarkson, Billy Clarke, Gary Taylor-Fletcher and John Murphy.
Steve Thompson, formerly a coach at Blackpool and now working with Simon Grayson at Preston North End, will oversee tactics from the touchline for the Seasiders All-Stars.
Not all of the assembled Blackpool glitterati will play as some of that illustrious number are still playing competitive football and managers are loath to risk them in a testimonial match, though Ormerod hopes there will be one or two cameo appearances.
And there is a possibility that Parkinson himself will be there with his family to support the venture.
Ormerod said: “There is a chance Gary will be at the match and it would be nice if that happened.
“I knew Gary as a player and a coach at Blackpool, and he was always the life and soul of everything.
“It is sad what has happened to him and hopefully he will be able to be there on Sunday. If not, we will still be able to support his fund.
“What happened to Gary can happen to anyone.
“When I left Blackpool in 2012, I never got the chance to say a final goodbye and to thank them for all the support they gave me over the years.
“I didn’t want to stage Sunday’s game at Bloomfield Road because of the politics going on at the club, so it was moved to AFC Fylde and it is a good chance to show off the fantastic new stadium there.”
Ormerod, one of the most wholehearted and popular players to wear the Blackpool shirt, finished his playing days in non-league football and, now that he has retired from the game, he is busier than ever.
He said: “I am involved in a gym franchise and I am also doing work as a radio pundit.
“I have three kids who keep me busy.
“There are loads of things to do, and I am certainly not ready yet for the rocking chair and the pipe and slippers!”
AFC Fylde manager Dave Challinor has yet to finalise his team, but says there is every chance that he will make a brief appearance harking back to his days with Stockport County and Tranmere Rovers.
However, he is ruling out utilising one of his howitzer long throws!
The Coasters’ line up to take on the Seasiders all-stars is likely to include the likes of Matt Walwyn and Joe Booth, among other past and present Fylde players.