Graeme Souness and Dion Dublin are leading a campaign to help thousands of former footballers who are living in pain and unable to afford treatment.

The former professionals – many of whom didn’t enjoy the inflated wages and palatial lifestyle of today’s top stars – are in desperate need of assistance.

Damaged limbs are the heavy price to pay for a career in the game.

Many need new hips or knees after being struck down by osteoarthritis, a crippling condition that affects joints.

Former Aston Villa physio Jim Walker has seen at first hand the ­devastating consequences of what he insists should be recognised as an industrial disease.

It is why he has been working closely with the PFA to highlight the fact that help is at hand for the many sufferers.

Jim Walker says some ex-footballers 'are struggling to even get out of their own house'

He, along with former Liverpool ­midfielder Souness and ex- Manchester United striker Dublin, wants retired players – who can’t afford replacement limbs or who are stuck in a long queue for treatment – to make a telephone call that could change their lives.

“There are far too many older ­players who are struggling to even get out of their own house,” said Walker, who has helped ­conduct research into osteoarthritis.

“Usually, if you’ve had knee ­surgery, you will get osteoarthritis. You can also get osteoarthritis in the hip, the back and the ankle. Where there are joints, you are
vulnerable.

“The pain eventually becomes worse and worse until it becomes unbearable. So you then have the ex-professional, who wasn’t on the mega wages that today’s top players earn, desperate to have a hip or knee replacement.

“It could cost £16,000, money he can’t afford, so he doesn’t do anything about it. Then he becomes a virtual prisoner in his own house, too proud to ask for help.

Graeme Souness is also fronting the campaign

“It’s a huge price to pay for a football career. But I’ve had discussions with the PFA and I’m also ­delighted that two ­high-profile names like Graeme Souness and Dion Dublin are willing to help to try and get something done for older players who are ­suffering in ­silence.

“We want them to get in touch with me through the PFA and, hopefully, we can set about trying to improve their lives.

Walker, 72, played as a full-back for Derby County (under Brian Clough), Brighton , Peterborough and Chester before becoming a leading physio with Blackburn Rovers and Aston Villa, where he met Souness and former England striker Dublin.

He is also aware of how dementia is affecting some older players and ­supports the research being conducted into the illness.

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“Again these ­ex-­players, and their families who have to
become carers, need help,” Walker added.

“Even if it’s a small amount of money to help them have a day out, it can make a big ­difference.

“So, again, we need to hear from the families or friends of players who are suffering from dementia.

“It’s so easy to forget about players who are struggling after they were once idolised by the fans. Hopefully, we can now do something about it.”