STEPH Houghton, the wife of Bolton Wanderers defender Stephen Darby, has thanked well-wishers after her husband’s diagnosis with motor neurone disease.

The England international posted a message of appreciation on her Instagram account after news of Darby’s illness was made public earlier this week.

“Thank you everyone for your messages over the last few days. We can’t thank you enough for all your love and support. We are overwhelmed. We will keep fighting and most of all keep smiling!”

Darby was diagnosed with the incurable, life-limiting illness by specialists last Wednesday and made a public statement on Tuesday via Bolton Wanderers and the Professional Footballers’ Association.

The couple were married in June at a ceremony in Cheshire.

Darby had suffered the symptoms of Isaacs Syndrome, which affected the function of nerve fibres in his limbs and had been unable to train with the club over the last few weeks.

He had readied himself to retire from the game but was then given a heart-breaking diagnosis that he had developed MND.

Darby visited his team-mates on Tuesday morning at the training ground in Lostock to break the news personally.

After his statement was released in the press tributes poured in from all over the game and fans’ groups from both Bolton and his former club Bradford City have expressed an interest in staging a benefit game in the future.

Speaking on Wednesday night, Bolton manager Phil Parkinson said the players were also keen to support Darby in any way they could.

“The news obviously hit them very hard because Stephen is an incredibly popular member of the group but he will be given any support we can possibly give him,” he said.

“We want to keep him around in whatever way we can.”