Sheffield United's Oli McBurnie opens up on personal turmoil as brother Xander battles rare cancer

Oli McBurnie opens up on tough personal spell amid Sheffield United's survival battle
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Oli McBurnie has opened up on the private turmoil of his younger brother being diagnosed with cancer after hailing boss Chris Wilder's "excellent" approach. McBurnie shaved his head recently in solidarity with 26-year-old brother Xander, also a professional footballer.

Xander was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma, the same type of cancer that affected former Blade David Brooks, recently and is undergoing chemotherapy which has caused hair loss. The United striker shaved his head at the same time in support of Xander and dedicated his goal in Saturday's 3-3 draw with Fulham to his little brother.

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"It puts everything in to perspective," he said. "Coming out here, we've got the best job in the world. You think it's hard when we're at the bottom of the league, but he does chemo every Friday and that's hard. This isn't hard. That goal was for him today.

"After defeats you want the world to swallow you up, you think it's the end of the world - but things like that will put things really in to perspective for you and shows there's a lot more things. Of course it still hurts but football is where I distract myself, I need football to get away from things like that. He's the strongest kid I know so to see him fighting, why wouldn't I fight on the pitch?" McBurnie hailed the support of manager Wilder since the terrible news of Xander's diagnosis. "As soon as the gaffer found out, he's been excellent," the striker added. "Saying: 'Do you need this, or do you need to go see him? Whatever you need, just come and speak to me'. For me, I don't need that. I want to be at football. I need that kind of thing as the distraction. But having the gaffer there and the things he does for the boys, a lot of people will never see those things.

"The boys were all buzzing to see him come back. Obviously, everyone had a lot of respect and appreciation for the things he did for us and got us to where we've been. But for me personally, Chris Wilder, he's been so good for me. The first spell, this spell, every time."

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McBurnie admitted the news about Xander's illness was "tough", adding in an interview with Sky Sports: "It was a real out-of-the-blue thing. My brother's 26, a professional footballer at the time. He just gets a lump in his neck, has a few tests, and all of a sudden, he's got cancer. But it's not like anything can change for me. I've still got to come into work every day. I've still got to go about my normal day-to-day life.

"There are obviously things that people don't get to see. We don't like to always go through stuff all the time. We don't want to shout about things. It's just one of those things. Being a footballer, you've got to get on with it and do your job the same as everyone else does."

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