Lenny Johnrose has died at the age of 52 from MND – the disease that also affects Leeds Rhinos rugby league player Rob Burrow
Former footballer Len Johnrose has died aged 52, three years after being diagnosed with motor neuron disease in 2017.
The defensive midfielder was best known for his spell at Bury between 1993 and 1999 but also spent time at Burnley, Hartlepool, Burnley and Swansea and helped raise money for the MND Association.
Johnrose is survived by his wife Nadine and their three children: Chanel, Elizabeth and Patrick.
The Len Johnrose Trust tweeted on Monday: “We are heartbroken to report that our leader, Len Johnrose, passed away this morning. Len was an incredibly proud husband and father. Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this very sad time.”
The 52-year-old has also raised awareness of the condition among current players through his work with Project 92. The 2019 FIELD study identified a four-fold increased risk of developing MND in soccer players compared to the general public.
Speaking to the PA news agency in November 2020, Johnrose said: “This (increased risk) should have caused massive shockwaves, but it hardly caused a wave. We really need to spread this message.”
Len Johnrose, the footballer
Born in Preston, Lancashire in 1969, Johnrose began his career as a defensive midfielder with Blackburn Rovers.
He also spent time on loan at Preston North End as a young trainee and his impressive stint led to a £50,000 move to Hartlepool United in 1992.
During his year with the team, Johnrose made over 60 appearances, scoring 11 goals. At the end of his year’s contract, he was signed by Bury manager Stan Ternent.
Johnrose was crucial to Bury’s rapid promotion to the First Division and Ternent was so dependent on the midfielder that he reportedly paid £225,000 to take Johnrose to his new club Burnley.
He made almost 200 league appearances for Bury before moving and made almost 100 appearances for Burnley in those three different stints at the club.
The defensive midfielder signed a 12-month contract with Swansea from the 2003/04 season and while there was talk of another 12-month contract later in the year when Swans manager Brian Flynn left the club by mutual agreement in March 2004 left, Johnrose left the club two days.
Len Johnrose and motor neuron disease
After retirement, Johnrose became a teacher before being diagnosed with MND.
Motor neuron disease is a rare condition that affects both the brain and nerves. Symptoms of the disease include muscle weakness, twitching, slurred speech, and difficulty swallowing. Symptoms worsen over time and there is currently no cure for the disease.
Former Leeds Rhinos rugby league player Rob Burrow was also diagnosed with the disease in 2019 and has since been made an MBE for his services to the sport and the MND community.
There is a 1 in 300 risk that a person will develop MND in their lifetime, and not only is there no cure, there are still no answers explaining what may be causing it.
Johnrose helped launch the IceFoot92 challenge in 2021 to raise funds for the MND Association. Participants were challenged to dip their feet in ice-cold water for 92 seconds.
Speaking to the PA Agency in October 2019, Johnrose said he was “sick” that there were no restrictions on headers in children’s football and he said sporting authorities “were taking risks with people’s lives”.
Since then, a policy has been introduced advising that under-11s should avoid headers in football training.
what was said
Former Johnrose clubs Burnley, Blackburn, Hartlepool and Swansea have all tweeted their condolences. The MND Association released a statement to PA on Monday, August 15, which read: “Len has been living in the public eye with this brutal illness after deciding to announce his diagnosis in the summer of 2018.
“Following that he selflessly devoted a lot of time to raising awareness.
“Len’s infectious smile, sense of humor, pragmatic approach to life and determination to do whatever it takes to work for people with MND made him a very popular figure within the MND community. He will be greatly missed.
“We would like to extend our condolences to Lens’ wife Nadine, his three children Chanel, Elizabeth and Patrick, his family and friends and thank him for their unwavering support.”