HARRY DARLING will proudly wear Swansea’s new third kit today and remember his beloved aunt who died of cancer.
Darling’s auntie Lesley passed away in 2017 aged 55.
The centre-half, 23, told SunSport: “It’s my personal favourite shirt from this season. I love it.
“There are a few reasons why I’m passionate about this but mainly because of my auntie. Her death was unexpected as she was only in her 50s.
“I was very close to her. My aunt died just a few months after finding out she had cancer. It hit us hard.
“She was mum’s sister and would always organise family parties and gatherings. We used to always go for Christmas around her house.
“My auntie was a big part of our family. She was a big football fan and I hope she would be proud of what I’m doing now because she didn’t get to see me become a professional footballer.
“So this is why this shirt means so much to me.”
The eye-catching pink design includes spots of various colours, which represent some of the most common types of cancer.
Some of the profits from the shirts will be donated to cancer charity Maggie’s as part of the Tackling Cancer Together campaign.
The charity will also have their logo featured on the kit’s pink shorts during the forthcoming season.
Darling said: “It’s great to be able to raise awareness and money to help tackle cancer.”
The centre-half is in his second season with the Swans – joining from MK Dons last summer after following ex-boss Russell Martin to the club.
And, although Martin quit the club to take over at Southampton, Darling believes he and his team-mates can make a real fist at making the play-offs after narrowly missing out last term.
He said: “It was challenging because it was a step up from League One, which I found tough at the start but as the season progressed I grew into it.
“As a group, we were frustrated because we knew what we could’ve achieved. We showed what we were capable of with the results we achieved towards the end of the season.
“The target is to push for the play offs. We were close last year despite not being at our best a lot of the time so we know we can do it. The goal is to get promoted anyway we can.”
New Swansea boss Michael Duff guided Barnsley to the League One play-off final in May, which they narrowly lost to Sheffield Wednesday before he opted to swap South Yorkshire for South Wales.
And like he did with the Tykes and previous club Cheltenham, he has already called upon the help of the Royal Marines to help school his players in the art of understanding the importance of team-work.
Darling said: “We did have a Marine in at the training ground talking more about mentality and that side of it.
“The gaffer is big on fitness so it was a big pre-season and among the most intense I’ve experienced.
“Football and fighting for your country are two completely different worlds. His world is pretty much life and death so it was fascinating to hear stories about that.
“The team aspects are similar so we can glean things from that in a way.
“It’s all about needing to pull together to achieve one goal and that’s what he was trying to get across.”
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Duff played in all five of English football’s top divisions and has quickly won the respect of the Swansea dressing room.
And Darling said: “The big thing is his mentality to win. His record playing and managerial speaks for itself. He has been brilliant with us. He has installed a culture that if we want to win and be successful we must pull together.
“We all knew about him and his record and he’s lived up to that expectation.”
Darling believes his game has come on in leaps and bounds since stepping up from League One — and believes he can become a Premier League player if he continues progressing this season.
He said: “The step up physicality-wise was big. I’ve had to improve that. The tempo is a lot quicker. You get caught out with the tiniest of mistakes. It’s about sharpening up over a game.
“I used to love watching Swansea when they were in the Premier League because of the way they played and I’d love to get to that level myself. With this club, I believe that is possible.”
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