Cancer-stricken Hartson's thanks

Former football star John Hartson has spoken publicly for the first time since his cancer diagnosis to thank well-wishers for their support.

The ex-Wales, Arsenal and Celtic striker said they gave him a "big lift" as he undergoes chemotherapy.

The 34-year-old father-of-three has been diagnosed with testicular cancer which spread to his brain and lungs.

He was moved from critical care to a cancer ward in Swansea last weekend and said: "I'm feeling well at the moment".

The retired player said: "I'd like to thank all the wonderful staff for the excellent care they have been giving me.

"I'm really grateful to all the people who have sent messages, cards and flowers - they have been such a big lift to me and my family.

"People have taken time out to write a message and buy a card and that means a lot."

Some of the most recent messages and support have come from other sporting figures such as boxer Joe Calzaghe and former Wales and Manchester United footballer Mickey Thomas.

He has also had support from troops in Afghanistan and US Marines, his family revealed, along with Lance Armstrong, the American cyclist who has himself overcome cancer.

He added: "I'm not going to be able to thank everyone personally for their message but I appreciate every one, both from inside and outside football.

"And the biggest thanks to my fantastic family and friends."

The footballer, who also used to play for Arsenal and West Ham United, was at Swansea's Morriston Hospital's critical care unit until the weekend after undergoing surgery on his brain.

He retired from football in February 2008 and had been working as a television pundit.

Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University NHS Trust has appealed to fans not to phone or turn up at the hospital to inquire about his health.