Former Huddersfield Town defender Joe Skarz is raising money for a friend’s two-year-old daughter who is battling cancer.

The Golcar United player and coach will be taking on a monumental challenge later this year where he will push his body to the limit to help raise funds for little Sophia Philliskirk.

Having met through football, Skarz and Sophia’s dad Danny have become close friends. Sophia, who only turned two this month, suffers from a type of cancer called hepatoblastoma, a disease which has attacked her liver and lungs.

Skarz, 32, will be taking on an incredible challenge on May 15 as he runs the Exeter marathon. However that’s not all, he will then cycle over 280 miles back from Exeter to Danny and Sophia’s home in Greenfield, near Saddleworth. 

So far through his JustGiving page he has raised more than £800 which has smashed through his initial target of £100. 

On the challenge Skarz said: “I wanted to do a challenge that was more than just running a marathon so I thought I’d cycle the 280 miles plus back up to Danny’s house too.

A grimace in the gym from Joe Skarz

“I’m really looking forward to it, I’m more nervous about the run than the bike ride. My dad is going down to help and support me and drive the car in front of me. We have some checkpoints along the route back up.” 

On preparing for the challenge Skarz added: “I have always wanted to do a marathon, but never had the chance because it’s not good to do them for the body when you play football. I’ve always had to concentrate on football style fitness regimes. 

“I am trying to do some training for the marathon where I can but I still have the season going on with Golcar and that has to be my priority at the moment. 

“The season may not end until April 16 if we make the play-off final with Golcar. So after that I’ll probably have around two and a half weeks to properly train for it. I don’t want to do much in the week before the event and risk injury. 

“There are challenges to overcome before I even take on the marathon but I love that it gives me something to work towards. Yes, there are challenges for me to get over and there will be pain along the way but it’s nothing compared to what Sophia is going through. 

Joe Skarz makes a tackle

“I was looking at marathon dates and the Exeter one just fell on the perfect date.”

Skarz told how he was desperate to help Danny’s family and said: “I played against Danny throughout my career. We did our coach licence courses together seven years ago. We then became close friends. He’s honest, kind and a family man. 

“We are in touch all the time, and he’s playing at AFC Fylde at the moment and only lives 20 minutes from my house. I wanted to do this for his family and hopefully I can complete the whole challenge and raise lots more money for the treatment Sophia needs.” 

Joe is hoping to have some collection buckets placed around the ground at Golcar’s last game of the season against Bury AFC on Saturday April 2. The Weavers will have a club record attendance at the Skye Direct Stadium when over 1,200 take in the fixture.