Marcus Stewart: Ex-Ipswich, Sunderland & Bristol Rovers striker diagnosed with MND

Marcus Stewart
Marcus Stewart’s goals for Ipswich in the Premier League at the start of the millennium brought him to the public’s attention

Former Ipswich, Bristol Rovers, Huddersfield and Sunderland striker Marcus Stewart has been diagnosed with motor neurone disease (MND).

The 49-year-old, who also played for Exeter and Bristol City, is now head of player development at Yeovil, another of his former clubs.

Stewart played in all top four tiers in England, with 254 goals in 783 games.

He scored 19 goals in the Premier League in the 2000-01 season as Ipswich finished fifth and made the Uefa Cup.

“As I take the time to adjust, my intention is to continue to enjoy my work in football and spend time with my family,” Stewart said in a statement issued jointly by Yeovil and the Professional Footballers’ Association.

“In the future, I would like to use my platform within football to help raise awareness around MND, but in the short term, I would like to ask for privacy on behalf of myself and my family.”

MND affects nerves in the brain and spinal cord and is a degenerative condition, for which there is no cure.

Gloucester rugby player Ed Slater has recently been diagnosed with the illness, while in April former Leeds Rhinos rugby league player Rob Burrow was awarded an MBE for his services to the MND community.

Burrow, who was diagnosed in 2019, is spearheading a £5m appeal to build an MND centre in Leeds.

Former Burnley, Blackburn and Swansea midfielder Len Johnrose passed away last month, five years after his MND diagnosis.

Stewart and his wife Louise have started a fundraising page for the Darby Rimmer MND Foundation, set-up by former Bradford and Bolton player Stephen Darby who also has the condition.

From Bristol Rovers to the Uefa Cup

Marcus Stewart
Stewart scored 26 goals in the Premier League for Ipswich and Sunderland

Bristol-born forward Stewart started his career at hometown side Bristol Rovers, where he would find the net 79 times in 207 appearances – scoring in their 1995 Division Two play-off final defeat by Huddersfield.

He would join the Terriers a year later for £1.2m, scoring 68 goals in three-and-a-half years before a £2.5m move to Ipswich in February 2000.

Four months later Stewart scored in Town’s 4-2 win over Barnsley in the Division One play-off final, as Ipswich returned to the top flight after finishing third.

His first full season at Ipswich was arguably his greatest – his 19 goals saw him become the top flight’s second-highest goalscorer that season, behind Chelsea’s Jimmy-Floyd Hasselbaink and ahead of the likes of Thierry Henry, Teddy Sheringham and Michael Owen.

Marcus Stewart and Darrell Clarke
Stewart moved into coaching after his playing career ended – he rose up from a youth coach at Bristol Rovers to become assistant manager before leaving with Darrell Clarke (left) in December 2019

Ipswich reached the third round of the Uefa Cup the following season but were relegated after coming 18th in the Premier League.

Stewart moved to Sunderland that summer for a reported £3.25m and was the club’s top scorer for the next two seasons – the second of which saw the Wearsiders lift the Championship title.

He returned to his home city that summer, joining Bristol City, spending the final three years of his career at Exeter – where he mixed his on-field role with coaching.

Stewart retired in April 2011, with his final appearance coming against Bristol Rovers, before assuming coaching roles at both clubs.

He was assistant manager at Rovers under Darrell Clarke, a role he took up again under Clarke at Walsall in 2019.

In June he moved into his current role at Yeovil, alongside former Bristol Rovers colleague Chris Hargreaves.

‘We’ll be there with Marcus with unwavering support’

Chris Hargreaves and Marcus Stewart
Chris Hargreaves and Marcus Stewart have worked together at National League side Yeovil Town since the summer

Yeovil manager Hargreaves led the support to his colleague at Huish Park.

“It’s definitely a shock to everybody,” he told BBC Radio Somerset.

“He’s held in such a high regard in football and at this football club by the staff, the players and the supporters.

“We’ll be there with Marcus with absolute unwavering support.

“Marcus had a good chat with the players this week, and was making them all laugh as normal, and saying that he is right behind them and wants to be with the players.”

Exeter manager Matt Taylor played alongside Stewart during his time at the club, and says physical and mental toughness will stand him in good stead:

“Maybe because I’ve played alongside people who’ve come across this situation in the past, Stephen Darby at Bradford and now Marcus Stewart, so I’ve seen them at their fittest and sometimes we can’t pre-empt when illness and diseases come,” he told BBC Sport.

“He’s played at the top level of English football, you only get to that position by being incredibly tough, physically and mentally.

“He’ll do all his research and everything he possibly can to give himself the best chance of overcoming this problem.”

Former Ipswich Town striker Darren Bent wrote on Twitter:external-link “Sad news regarding my former team-mate and somebody I looked up to as a kid and helped me so much at the start of my journey.”

Former Norwich striker and BBC pundit Chris Sutton described it as “really sad news” while former Newcastle United goalkeeper Steve Harper, who played alongside Stewart at Huddersfield in the late 1990s, said “I know what a fighter he is. Thoughts and best wishes with you and the family.”

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