It's a hair-raiser as Oxford quintet play part for charity

Banbury Cake: Michael Raynes is one of four U’s players to grow their hair to raise money for charity Michael Raynes is one of four U’s players to grow their hair to raise money for charity

A group of Oxford United players have joined forces to take part in a national campaign by footballers to raise money for charity.

Tranmere Rovers midfielder Joe Thompson was diagnosed with Nodular Sclerosing Hodgkins Lymphoma Cancer in October.

In response, a Grow4joe campaign has been set up to raise money for Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research.

It is encouraging footballers across the country to grow their hair for sponsorship until the end of the season, when Thompson, 24, is due to finish his treatment.

Michael Raynes and Deane Smalley know Thompson after all three grew up in the Manchester area.

They have convinced Tom Newey and Scott Davies to join in, while Sean Rigg is considering signing up.

Raynes is familiar of a similar condition after his manager at Stockport County, Gary Ablett, died of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in 2012 and is keen to take part.

He said: “Joe’s chemotherapy finishes around the end of May, so they’re trying to get as many footballers to grow their hair or beards.

“I can’t grow a beard, so I’ll be growing my hair.

“Tom Newey can’t grow hair, so he’s growing a beard. Deane and Scotty are doing their hair and we’re trying to get Riggy to do his beard.

“We just know him from Manchester and he’s a similar age to myself. Plus with what happened to Gary Ablett I thought the more we can do the better.”

Raynes, who urged U’s fans to join in, felt it showed the positive side of the football world.

He said: “We’re encouraging as many fans to get involved as well to spread the word.

“Football is a big community and it’s for a good cause, we’ll just look to raise as much as we can.”

The online campaign was set up earlier this week and has raised almost £1,000 so far.

Visit justgiving.com/grow4joe to donate.

Meanwhile, the wet weather may have prevented Oxford United from playing so far in 2014, but it has had only a limited impact on their preparations.

In a bid to protect their pitches at their Roman Way training ground, the squad have spent the last week doing sessions on the artificial surface at Oxford City.
Apart from the change of venue, United have been able to train as normal.
Michael Raynes also pointed out most teams were in the same boat, so does not believe the break will have a negative impact on the U’s.
He said: “Everyone’s the same because no-one has played really.
“We’ve worked hard with Al (Lane, head of sports science) so we’re all fit and getting ready to go again.”

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