After battling acute lymphoblastic leukaemia for the last three years, seven-year-old U’s fan Ryan Lafford deserved a hero’s welcome. So, on the day he completed his treatment, Oxford United's staff, players and fans were united in applause.
Ryan was diagnosed at the age of four with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia. After a long time in hospital he lost all ability to walk and worked extremely hard to get back on his feet again to start school in September.
Ryan has undergone three years of treatment and has come on massively, overcoming fears and gruelling treatment, but his love of football and his friends has kept him pushing through.
With the club having already arranged for Ryan to ring a bell on the pitch ahead of the game to celebrate the end of his treatment, staff and players heard of Ryan’s story and decided to give him a day he would never forget. U’s boss Karl Robinson invited Ryan and his family into the manager’s office where he was told by Karl that he would be leading the teams out and be the very first person to be seen in United’s stunning new home kit.
After meeting the entire first team squad in the dressing room - minus favourite player Matty Taylor - Ryan was surprised with a FaceTime call from United’s number nine to congratulate him on completing his treatment and give him words of encouragement when leading out the teams.
At 3pm Ryan emerged from the tunnel with (second) favourite player Cameron Brannagan to a fantastic reception and rang the bell to signal the completion of his treatment to fantastic applause from both Oxford United and Coventry City fans - we thank the visiting fans for their excellent reception, adding to an already fantastic day for Ryan.
After the game, Karl Robinson told us:
“Health and people’s families are far more important than football and we are a focal point of families and that’s why it’s important we’re part of a journey for these young people. I’m over the moon that Ryan rang the bell on our pitch today and hopefully it will put a smile on his face for a long, long time.”