Elliot Lee was a close friend and a teammate of Dylan Tombides at West Ham United FC.
And the 24-year-old – now banging in goals on a regular basis for Luton Town FC and chasing promotion to The Championship – takes his responsibilities as an Ambassador for DT38 very seriously.
Until this season Elliot wore the number 38 shirt wherever he had played in memory of Dylan who claimed that squad number during his time with the Hammers.
Having displayed 38 on his back for years, the Durham-born front man explained why he has now switched to the glamourous number ten.
“It’s only this season I’ve changed really as number ten was available and I think Dyl would’ve gone mad at me if I didn’t take that.
“We always used to have a saying ‘let the players play’, me Dyl and Moncs (George Moncur) always said it and the number ten is a number known for being worn by good footballers,” he quipped.
The trio were inseparable around the training ground with humour and a stack of ambition at the heart of their relationship.
Elliot recalled spending time with his buddy.
“I’ll always remember Dyl just being Dyl,” he reflected.
“Always laughing, always smiling, you could hear him coming down the corridor probably bantering someone for the clothes they were wearing.
“Even throughout the course of his (cancer) treatment he would always come in full of positivity and I think that lifted everyone, everyday.
“On the pitch he was so gifted, I’ll always remember when we were training with the first team and he did this outrageous bit of skill around Winston Reid and scored and we sort of looked at each other and just smiled.
“And you didn’t even know whether he was left of right footed he was because he was so good with both!”
From day one the Hatter’s striker stepped up for the Tombides family to spread the word about DT38 and its work raising awareness of testicular cancer, the disease which robbed Dylan of his life on April 18, 2014, aged 20.
He explained why he was so keen to get involved.
He said: “I am very proud to be a part of DT38 Foundation.
“It means so much to me to be able to spread Dyl’s story and raise awareness.
“I always smile when someone asks me if I knew Dyl, it fills with me great pride to tell them that I not only knew him but had the honour to call him my friend.”
In 2018, Elliot raised funds for DT38 by taking part in a sponsored hair shave for the charity and he regularly spreads the word online and in person.
Elliot is the youngest son of England international and Newcastle United legend Rob Lee.
His brother, Olly Lee, 27, is a midfielder for Scottish Premiership side Heart of Midlothian FC.
Elliot revealed the impact his famous footballing Dad has had on his career.
“He’s had the biggest influence, if it wasn’t for my Dad I wouldn’t be the player I am today (and my mum of course!).
“Growing up after every game or training session and just going to him for advice and the knowledge he can pass on is second to none.
“Not many players can go home after a game and talk to an ex-England international about how they played.
“He gives me advice after every game and if I don’t see him he is the first person I will ring.
“He will always tell me honestly how he thinks I played and tell me where I can do better.
“Sometimes I come home thinking I’ve played well and he will tell me different, but on the other hand sometimes I come home thinking I’ve had a bad game and he will go through it with me and actually makes me realise I did well.
“Football is a high pressure game which can make you have a doubts but everything is a lot better after talking to my Dad.”
The forward is on course for his best season yet having scored 10 goals in 24 games so far as Luton Town FC push for promotion to The Championship for the first time since 2007.
He explained why he thinks the season is going so well.
“We have a great group of boys here.
“There are no ‘bad eggs’ as such and for me, personally, it is so important, if you want to be a successful team.
“You can’t have any individuals disrupting the harmony and atmosphere of the squad. You have to push each other and improve week in week out.
“We have a lot of great players in the squad and play a brand of football that’s suits us and it’s exciting to watch.
“There is a long way to go but we are all pushing towards the same goal and enjoying the ride.
“Promotion from League Two was an amazing feeling but doing back to back would be unbelievable.
“The hard work and sacrifices would all be worth it, but we have a long way to go yet and we will take each game as it comes.”
But what about the famous Hatter’s fans who so passionately support their team home and away?
Elliot revealed that support from ‘the terraces’ can be a “game-changer”.
“Fans can change the game, it’s as simple as that and fans are what make the games special.
“They turn up in their numbers and cheers their hearts out every game.
“As a player, home games can be fantastic when the fans are with you and the teams playing well, but also some away grounds can be intimidating if the home crowd get going.
“But that’s what players love, football would be no where near as special if the games were played in empty stadiums.
“Hearing the crowd roar and chant gives you that extra buzz in a game.”
And when asked about hearing your own name being chanted, he joked about the difficultly of trying to rhyme a song lyric with “Lee”.
“It’s a funny one because at the minute I think the Luton fans are trying to think of a song for me, so every so often I hear my name but I’m not sure it’s caught on yet.
“I must have a hard name to get into a song!
“But when you hear your name sung by all the fans it’s an incredible feeling and is the type of thing that can give u that extra energy and encouragement to go and do something special.”
With a surge into the second tier now a realistic possibility, Elliot opened up about his personal ambitions within the game.
“My greatest ambition as a footballer is to be the best I can be, to play at the highest level I can,” he revealed.
“But I’m not going to put pressure on myself and start thinking ‘I have to get to a certain place by a certain time.’
“I want to enjoy everyday of being a footballer and playing games and training with the boys because there is no better job.
“There is no better feeling than stepping out on a Saturday in front of the crowds and then coming back in with a win and it’s even better when you score.
“So, really my greatest ambition is just to enjoy the journey of being a footballer, there are many ups and downs and you can lose sight of why you actually play because of the pressure involved, but it is a short career and I play football because I love it, so I want to make the most of it.”
With the experience of losing Dylan to testicular cancer just five years ago, Elliot is keen to keep sending out a message to men about the importance of checking themselves on a regular basis.
He said: :Checking yourself on a regular basis is so important. I lost a great friend to this disease and it can happen to any guy so don’t take a risk just check yourselves every few weeks and if you notice anything unusual go see a doctor.”
For more information about checking yourself for testicular cancer visit https://dt38.org/education-and-awareness/dt38-awareness-resources/