WHEN little Mack Allan’s best pal Jack Joslin was diagnosed with brain cancer, he said he felt completely helpless.
But the youngster, who is football legend Alan Ball’s grandson, said though he could do nothing to stop the raging illness, he knew one thing he could do – be a good friend.
And there’s no doubting the eight-year- old’s friendship is giving Jack the strength he needs to battle on.
Now in honour of his World Cup hero granddad who both played for and managed Saints, Mack and his mum Keely will host a massive fundraising football tournament for Jack this weekend.
And the resourceful primary school pupil has even called on some of his late granddad’s friends to lend a hand.
Legends Lawrie McMenemy, Matt Le Tissier and Francis Benali are among the former Saints stars to pledge their support offering to referee, hand out prizes and even give master classes to the winners.
Mum Keely, 43, said: “Seeing Jack go from a normal eight-year-old boy running around and playing football to having to learn to walk, talk and eat by himself again was just devastating.
“Mack has been there for Jack since he was diagnosed and he has been so incredibly brave so we just really wanted to do something.
“Jack would give anything to be able to play football again and I know dad would have 100 per cent been there and supported us, so it is an honour to help Jack and keep my dad’s memory alive.”
Jack was diagnosed with medulloblastoma, a fast-growing cancerous brain tumour which can spread to elsewhere in the brain and spinal cord if left untreated last year.
He has since endured gruelling medical procedures including a ten-hour operation to remove the tumour that left him unable to walk and with a palsy on his right side.
Despite being weak and sick from the ongoing chemotherapy and numerous transfusions, brave Jack is on his feet again.
And his mum Lisa, who was school friends with Keely, says it is Mack’s friendship that has helped get him through the difficult times.
Mack, who has just been signed to AFC Bournemouth Academy, has been at his hospital bedside, held sick bowls for his mate, enjoyed afternoons watching films on the sofa when Jack is too weak to move and has even wheeled him into his class to see his school friends at Hiltingbury Junior School.
But it’s the latest event that has fuelled Jack with more fighting spirit than ever.
That’s because the determined boy has his sights on one thing now – being well enough to take a penalty kick with his best friend in goal – something the football-mad boys have talked about and practised.
Mum-of-two Lisa, from Chandler’s Ford, said: “It breaks my heart to see Jack like this but he is such a strong, determined little man, he takes it all in his stride and Mack has been an amazing friend.
“They just get on with it and that’s a bit of normality for Jack between all the hospital trips.
“We have to just take every day as it comes.
“Jack loves his football so I really hope he is well enough to take the penalty. It will be one of the proudest moments of my life.”
NEARLY 300 football-mad children will gather to support Jack on Sunday.
The Alan Ball Football Legacy Programme features two football tournaments – an under eights and an under 10s all to raise money for Jack’s Journey to support his family.
All players at the event in Stoneham Park in Eastleigh will receive a medal and the two winning teams will get a coaching class with Matt Le Tissier.
A raffle features prizes including a signed Rickie Lambert shirt by last season’s team, overnight stays, a £100 beauty hamper, a photo session and an iPad.
Anyone is welcome to watch the football which starts at 9.30am and will finish at 5pm.
To donate or support the event, email allan468@bt internet.com. To follow Jack’s news and support the family, search Jack’s Journey on Facebook.