Rochdale Football Club will formerly ‘retire’ a squad number awarded to brave youngster Joshua McCormack.
Five-year-old Joshua, from Whitworth, who died in the early hours of Friday after a 15-month battle with a brain tumour, was named as a substitute for Dale’s Checkatrade Trophy game with Hartlepool United at Spotland last November.
A huge Rochdale fan,young Joshua’s name appeared on the official matchday team sheet and he was assigned the squad number 55.
The shirt was hung in the dressing room ahead of the game and although Joshua was too ill to attend, the players ran over to the substitutes’ bench and proudly held his shirt aloft after striker Reuben Noble-Lazarus opened the scoring on the night.
Joshua, who was a Dale mascot earlier in the season, was even named as the recipient of the football league’s honorary player of the month award for November.
Speaking of the club’s ‘youngest ever signing’, Dale boss Keith Hill said at the time that Joshua’s plight had touched the hearts of everyone at the club and the town.
Now the club has retired the number 55 squad number as a mark of respect.
In a statement, Rochdale said: “Everyone at Rochdale Football Club is deeply saddened and heartbroken to learn of the passing of Joshua McCormack. The five-year-old passed away in the early hours of Friday morning following a brave battle with cancer.
“Our thoughts are with his mum Nicola and his dad Kevin at this very difficult time. We send Nicola, Kevin and their family our sincerest condolences and love.
“Staff at the club first met Joshua last year and he touched the hearts of everyone. He remained a friend of Dale since then, and in November, the youngster was named in the Rochdale squad to face Hartlepool United.
“As a mark of respect and in remembrance, Joshua’s squad number, 55, will be retired. We will continue to offer our support to the family at this time.”
The club’s kind gesture made headlines across the country.
Joshua’s shirt was presented to him in person later when players and club staff visited a hospice where he was being cared for during his illness.