It sounds like a plotline one of those football films – the non-league minnows, who are playing for free, have their coach trip for a huge away trip to the other side of the country paid for by a generous stranger. But that is just what happened to Redditch United this week. Generous stranger, and massive Blyth Spartans fan, George Robson was the one behind the gesture. Rooted to the bottom of the Blue Square North and with no playing budget whatsoever Redditch are fighting very hard to keep their heads above water, watchful of the likes of Ilkeston and Farsley Celtic who have both been lost from that league in the past two seasons.
They aren’t winning too many matches, their first team manager left and the average of the squad is 19 (just), it’s not a great time for anyone at the club right now. But George’s gesture, to pay for the first team coach to make the 11hr round trip to Blyth last Tuesday left Reds secretary Tim Delaney, and most of the fans on the Redditch forum, speechless. “For a supporter of one club who pledges his support and money to them on a regular basis to even consider another’s plight is truly humbling and restores ones faith in human kind,” he said. Before adding that the first team and travelling directors, supporters and staff had spoken to George after the match (which Redditch lost 2-0) to personally thank him.
Modest George simply said his act was: “merely a gesture to help out a fellow club in trouble as at the end of the day we are all in it together.” It wasn’t just ‘a gesture’ it’s a rare moment of individual kindness, at a time when the fans are being called on more and more to support clubs during the current bleakness. And it got me thinking about a few more of those happy moments from football which don’t happen on the pitch…
Not the ‘England team to donate match fees to charity’ acts, the ones which are really, actually kind, the ones that give you a warm glow and which you read then realise you are grinning at the end of – or in other words the ones which are genuinely kind, not just dreamed up by a PR company or have some sort of hidden element (see: Craig Bellamy ‘donating’ money to Wrexham after the incident with the golf club) or the nonsensical idea that the Conference giving £1m to non-league to ‘share’ is in any way generous and I’m not going to entertain any of those ‘chairman donates money to his own club’ things either. These, therefore, are my three favourite football acts of random kindness:
Niall Quinn and the £8K taxi
On a similar note to Generous George, you could file this one under generous acts in the name of football transport. The classic tale of Niall Quinn forking out £8,000 to help a group of around 80 Sunderland fans get back to Wearside, from Bristol back in 2007. No mean feat and not a taxi journey I’d ever like to make but probably not something you’d see some of the modern era footballers do. Admittedly the fans had been removed from a flight run by everyone’s favourite low budget orange-branded airline, for singing about Niall Quinn’s Disco Pants… but still, nice bloke. He also gave all the players who took part in his testimonial a letter from a sick child and donated the proceeds to several hospitals.
Young Hyde fan’s grape escape
Two-year-old Hayden Chadwick is like most of us, the first thing he thinks about when he gets to a match is food. So, when the little Hyde fan arrived at the ground for Leamington’s FA Trophy clash with his team last year he started tucking into his packed lunch. But while munching on some grapes disaster struck and the tot started choking. His dad, Phil, tried to help him but the child began to go blue. Leamington fan (and off duty) nurse Lee Matthews heard the call for help from the bar and jumped into action and helped dislodge the grape, then sat and waited with the family for the ambulance to come. Yes, he was just doing what he was trained to do, yes its ‘right place right time’ but a heartwarmer all the same.
But I’ve saved my favourite til last….
Bulls duo’s snow rescue
Stuart Fleetwood and Daniel Stratford were popping out for some food in Gloucester back in December when most of the country resembled an arctic tundra when they saw a woman outside a clearly-closed hotel, sheltering from the snow – she asked for help, she was meant to be going to her daughter’s but the trains were not running. She’d been booked into the hotel but it was closed. Instead of walking off, pointing her in the direction of the bus stop or calling her a cab and sending her on her way the pair took her home.
Stratford gave the woman, who was a grandmother in her 70s, the spare room in his flat and, according to the Hereford Times, made her crumpets with plum marmalade for breakfast. The next morning he dropped her at the station and she went on her way to meet her daughter. George’s act of kindness to Redditch can now be added to that list.
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