Leeds United Premier League heroes set for emotional Elland Road reunion

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Dominic Matteo's wife recently read back to him the messages of support he received after his brain tumour diagnosis and former Leeds United team-mate Mark Viduka was among them.

In November 2019 the ex Liverpool, Leeds and Scotland defender was rushed to Leeds General Infirmary for brain surgery and a subsequent heavy dose of ‘radiotherapy.

In April 2020 he was given the all-clear, although he still has to have his brain scanned and admits he can never plan too far ahead because he doesn't know what's around the corner.

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Living with a level of uncertainty gives any plans he can put together extra importance and he has something special lined up for next month.

Former Leeds United heroes Mark Viduka and Dom Matteo celebrate together against Lazio. Pic: Yorkshire Post NewspapersFormer Leeds United heroes Mark Viduka and Dom Matteo celebrate together against Lazio. Pic: Yorkshire Post Newspapers
Former Leeds United heroes Mark Viduka and Dom Matteo celebrate together against Lazio. Pic: Yorkshire Post Newspapers

On March 11 Elland Road's Pavilion will play host to a fundraiser for The Brain Tumour Charity and Ahead of the Game Foundation, when Matteo will be reunited with 'brilliant' ex team-mate and friend Viduka.

"Mark and I have always kept in touch, there's a few of us including Gary Kelly, Eirik Bakke and Olivier Dacourt and we keep an eye on each other, there's the odd WhatsApp message that'll come in," Matteo told the YEP.

"When I sat down with Leeds and Soccer Speaker to think about who would want to help do a fundraiser and who fans would want to see, Mark was the first name that came to mind.

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"I got in touch and straightaway he said he wanted to help, so I'm really grateful. Someone as pivotal as Mark doing this means the world - what a player, what a goalscorer and probably one of the best I played with. He scored some belters and was responsible for some iconic moments - not many score four against Liverpool."

According to Matteo, Viduak was a laid-back, family-orientated character who accompanied his team-mates on their big nights out but didn't go in for the drinking sessions and always drove himself home.

"That was his style," said Matteo.

"He was really funny and I'm hoping people will see that. He's a bit like David Batty in that he has a little bit of mystery about him - when was the last time Leeds fans really heard from Mark Viduka?"

Matteo heard from his pal when it really mattered, back in 2019, which makes next month's event a special reunion.

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"My wife was reading back to me all the messages I received quite recently and it made me realise how lucky I am, it was quite an emotional moment," he told the YEP.

"Mark was one of them.

"This night is another motivational thing for me. I'm back working at Leeds a couple of times a week and that's been amazing, talking about football and talking to players, it's really helped me.

"I can never plan too far - I've got scans coming up again soon and I hope they'll be fine - but planning this event helps motivate me.

"On the night I'll share a little bit about where I'm up to and then I'll leave it to Mark and his stories. It's about him giving the fans something special again."

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Matteo's hope is that as well as generating funds for worthwhile causes, the event will help inform people about the illness he lives with.

"There's not enough awareness or knowledge about it," he said.

"I got my hair cut today and spoke to a guy who lost his brother to a brain tumour, it's more prevalent than you'd think.

"When you're living in it, you see it all the time.

"Hopefully everyone will have a great night, enjoy themselves and we'll raise money and awareness.

"If anyone can support this great cause, it will help."

Viduka, who hopes to be accompanied by his family when he returns to LS11 next month, plans to attend the Norwich City game the following day.