Thousands of fans today showed their support for brave Tony Hopper as the News & Star urged readers to back the former Carlisle United and Workington Reds favourite all the way.

Tony, who has been diagnosed with motor neurone disease, made an emotional appearance at Brunton Park this afternoon at United’s League Two game against Portsmouth.

He was given an overwhelming welcome by fans who stood and applauded as he walk out on to the pitch at half time.

While the community has rallied around the Hoppers in raising funds to help them make memories for their young family, they are also determined to do all they can to fight against the cruel illness.

They want to raise funds and awareness for the Motor Neurone Disease Association, which is trying to find a cure for the disease.

And today the News & Star stands alongside the Hoppers by launching our ‘Fighting back for Tony’ campaign.

We plan to publicise as many fundraising efforts and attempts to raise awareness of Tony’s condition as possible.

We also encourage you to support the Hoppers’ “Fightback Fund”, where all money raised will go to the MND Association and has an initial £10,000 target.

Tony’s plight has touched the hearts of many in Cumbria – and his wife, Sue, said supporting the charity is now a real focus.

“When we went to speak to the neurologist, he explained to us that very little is known about this disease,” Sue said.

“There’s no treatment, no cure. The Fightback Fund for the MND Association is for research to understand this more, and hopefully one day get towards finding a cure.

“Everything everybody does in this respect not only raises money but awareness. The more people who know about it and think about it more, the better it is for people who are diagnosed.

“A lot of people around us have felt helpless about what they can do for Tony. But one thing they can do is raise money for research – that’s one thing so extremely helpful.”

A host of fundraising activities are expected in the coming weeks and months as the community rallies around the Hoppers.

Tony’s diagnoses of bulbar-onset motor neurone disease has an average prognosis of two to three years from the start of symptoms. Tony’s symptoms started last May, while he was diagnosed last month.

Sue added: “What we’ve experienced over the last two weeks is a real community spirit – it’s unbelievable how many people have not just donated to us as a family, but have wished us well.

“They are going through it with us and that emotional connection means that people are talking about it.

“Nobody should be ashamed of having this disease and being open about it. There’s no correlation between a certain lifestyle and being diagnosed with it.

“Another important point about our campaign is that people who are suffering from it often lose their voice. With bulbar, Tony will almost certainly lose his voice. So other people have to be his voice. That can be done through everybody rallying around.”

The Hoppers have already received invaluable support from the MND Association and their regional fundraiser for northern England, Kathryn Sheldon, said: “We have been blown away by the amazing support we’ve received from Tony and Sue.

“Tony’s Fightback Fund will support the MND Association north and west Cumbria Group and make a real difference for local people affected by this devastating disease.”


Carlisle United are donating some of the proceeds from sales of today’s match programme to the MND Association.

Tony’s lifelong friend and fellow former United player Rory Delap, meanwhile, is also backing our campaign to support the Hoppers.

He said: “It doesn’t surprise me that Tony and Sue are thinking of other people. When Sue sent me the text about Tony’s condition, I didn’t know too much about it.

“The more awareness that can be brought to it will obviously help others going through similar things.

“It’s such a rare disease and it does need attention drawing to it. To try and find a cure is going to take a lot of work, which costs money.

“It doesn’t surprise me that, through focusing on the charity, Tony is looking at the positives out of a negative situation. It sums the lad up.”

If you are planning a fundraising event to support the Hoppers and the Motor Neurone Disease Association, let us know by emailing

To support the Hoppers' Fightback Fund, visit