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Ex-Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers is hospice ambassador

Brendan Rodgers pictured at the Northern Ireland Hospice as he was named its new ambassador. Picture by Hugh Russell

FORMER Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers' first-hand experience of hospice care following the death of his father has seen the Co Antrim man lend his support to a major new facility in Belfast.

Rodgers was unveiled on Monday as an ambassador for the Northern Ireland Hospice and Children's Hospice.

The Carnlough native, who has spoken of how his father's love of sport helped drive him to top-flight football success, lost his 59-year-old dad Malachy to cancer in 2011.

His mother Christina had died the previous year, aged just 53.

The former Premier League boss, the eldest of five brothers, has described his parents as "the best role models we could have had".

He said on Monday that when he was first asked to become an ambassador for the charity, he had "no hesitation in accepting" following the support his own family had received through hospice care.

His father spent his final weeks being cared for by a hospice.

"I've had personal of palliative care with my own family... it left me with great admiration and respect for the people who work in the hospices and the nurses who care for our loved ones at these very difficult times," he said.

"I always say that the people who work in hospices are like angels."

He said he was "more than happy to do what I can for this wonderful organisation".

Rodgers, who was sacked by Liverpool after three years in charge last October, took a tour of the new north Belfast facility yesterday, which is earmarked to open in May.

"I am very proud of my roots as a Northern Ireland man and very well aware of the first-class hospice care, support, education and research," he said.

"The new adult hospice due to open this year, for example, will make Northern Ireland a world-leader in my aspects of hospice care."

Rodgers' first engagement with the charity will see him break sweat when he runs a leg of the Belfast Marathon on May 2.

The announcement of his involvement with the Northern Ireland Hospice comes as the final push gets underway to secure the remaining £1.5m needed for the new building.

The £13m adult hospice on the Somerton Road will include 18 beds in single en-suite rooms with supporting facilities for staff, families and volunteers.

It will be the first 'dementia friendly' hospice of its kind in the UK, with a special emphasis on textures and colours to ensure those with advanced Alzheimers suffer less falls and disorientation.

The Northern Ireland Hospice cares for more than 3,000 adults each year and is preparing to help more people at the new centre.

The opening of the Belfast facility is just a couple of months away, but its chief executive Heather Weir warned earlier this year that any delays caused by funding shortages could lead to it issuing its first ever cap on patients it can receive.

Rodney McCurley, vice-chairman of the charity's board of trustees, said: "It is a great day for Northern Ireland Hospice when someone of Brendan's stature in society offers their time, support and influence for the greater good of the charity and, most importantly, more than 3,000 adults and children cared for by Northern Ireland Hospice every year."

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