We can win this! That was the message from Bill Bailey on Friday morning as he was unveiled as manager of Men United – a unique team launched by Britain’s foremost male health charity Prostate Cancer UK at The Football League HQ.
While football clubs up and down the country entered the final week of the January transfer window, the new funnyman team boss immediately revealed two marquee signings – England international duo Gladstone Small and Luther Blissett – in a bid to propel the new movement of men to the very top.
"We need men to sign for the team in their thousands" said Bailey whose father-in-law is one of 250,000 men in the UK living with prostate cancer. "Clubs, pubs, individuals - let’s get everyone on the team. It’s easy - just search Men United online and you’re in! We’re determined to make this as massive for blokes as the breast cancer campaign has been for women."
The 49-year-old will be centre stage in Prostate Cancer UK’s national television message – filmed at Millwall FC – set to debut at 1.45pm during FA Cup fourth round tie between AFC Bournemouth and Liverpool FC live on ITV1, Saturday 25 January.
Owen Sharp, Chief Executive of Prostate Cancer UK had this challenge to men. “Put bluntly, it’s time for men in the UK to man up and take control of their own health. We’re asking men to sign up to Men United and check their knowledge of prostate cancer in our short online test. Make sure every man you know – family, friends, colleagues – takes this test. When it comes to prostate cancer, information is power.”
Sharp also addressed speculation regarding the make-up of the Men United super-team, confirming a host of other high-profile sign-ups. Homeland star Damian Lewis, Game of Thrones hard man Charles Dance, Sir Michael Parkinson, and rugby legend Will Carling will all link up with Bailey as the squad takes shape ahead of the 2014 campaign.
Parkinson, himself diagnosed with the disease last year, was among the first recruits, stating: "I’m signing up to Men United because I know what it is to confront prostate cancer. You definitely don’t want to do it alone. However tough you are, you need all the support you can get."
Damian Lewis was also quick to put his name to the campaign. A father in his 40s, the actor said: "I’m not yet 50 but one day I will be and that’s when a man’s risk of prostate cancer spikes. I’m joining Men United because it’s about hammering a disease which kills 10,000 men in the UK each year. Men United aims to tackle that."
Each year almost as many men are diagnosed with prostate cancer as women are diagnosed with breast cancer. But research into prostate cancer is badly underfunded, leaving tests and treatments trailing behind other common cancers. And the quality and availability of treatment can vary across the UK.
Owen Sharp has this to say on the current state of the nation "A man in the UK dies each hour from prostate cancer and another is diagnosed every fifteen minutes, yet in one year, England spent seven times more money on burning over-prescribed medicines than it did on prostate cancer research. That’s obscene and our men deserve better.
"Here, prostate cancer survival rates are below the European average, research into the disease lags a decade behind that for other cancers, and quality of care depends on where you live. It’s a scandal and we are not going to accept it. Men United is a powerful way for men, and the women in their lives, to mobilise against this common enemy. By signing up, you have a place and a voice in a growing movement that’s taking action for men’s health."