From David Beckham to His Royal Highness Prince William, the charity Help For Heroes has been backed by some of the biggest names in Britain. Launched in October 2007 in response to the desire of ordinary people to do something practical to help our wounded servicemen and women, it is a cause that unites all sections of our society.
The ethos of Help For Heroes is simple. It is strictly non-political and non-judgemental, recognising that wars happen under any government. As individuals we are powerless to stop our men and women from being killed and wounded. But by joining together we can do something practical to help.
It is this symbollic togetherness that a group of fans hope to inspire across a football community so often divided by tribal hostility and hatred, as they attempt to raise a five figure sum in aid of Help for Heroes by visiting 92 clubs in 92 hours.
The combination of raising sponsorship for this most popular of charities, as well as trying to foster a new spirit of friendship and respect throughout the football family is winning the support of a growing number of ex-professionals.
WEMBLEY TO WEMBLEY
Former Tottenham, Chelsea and Swindon Town legend Micky Hazard is just one of the old pros backing the 92 Plus 1 campaign launched by a four-man squad who will will leave Wembley Stadium after England’s World Cup qualifier with Montenegro on Friday October 11. The aim is to be back in time for the Poland game on Tuesday, October 15 that could determine the fate of Roy Hodgson’s team.
Along the way – a 2,600 mile road trip – they will visit every Premier and Football League ground collecting donations and stopping to meet a host of famous names. Hazard, Wayne Fereday and Daryl Sutch are some of the names already signed up to support the whistle-stop tour and hopes are high of attracting a stellar line-up of football heroes. Beckham has already had his invitation “and if he gets involved that would make all our hard work worthwhile and give us a chance of hitting our target” says organiser Simon Cox.
Cox and fellow businessman Mike Peters will be joined on their unique road trip by Darren Young, formerly of the Royal Air Force, and Mark Burns, a serving member of HM Armed Forces as well as being a coach at Swindon Town’s Football Academy.
The mission is summed up by Burns who says: “I have served throughout the world and in more recent years have unfortunately had to witness the devastating consequences of frontline combat on our troops. They have been left with devastating injuries that have an effect long after leaving the front line. help for heroes is a fantastic charity that supports our troops and is something my wife has been involved raising money for throughout the years and is a charity I felt I personally wanted to do something for.”
Bryn Parry, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Offer of Help for Heroes, promises the money raised by 92 Plus 1 will “provide practical, direct support to those who suffered life-changing injuries and illnesses while serving our country.”
Make no mistake, the power of publicity for this challenge being undertaken by four ordinary football fans will be even more valuable than the direct cash raised – and if it can help promote peace and respect between supporters in a media-driven world that too often thrives on confrontation, that will be a priceless bonus that we should all support.
WHAT SHANKLY REALLY MEANT WHEN HE TALKED ABOUT LIFE AND DEATH
The great Bill Shankly once said: “Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.” Those of us who are passionate about supporting our team know what he meant, but no-one who has lost a loved one – or anyone of sound mind who is being serious – will ever agree with the literal meaning of that quote.
Shanks was a legend who understood the importance of rivalry. But he also understood the value of friendship and respect. He rarely missed a match at Old Trafford when Liverpool were not in action because he loved the beautiful game and enjoyed watching Manchester United. It is hard to imagine such a thing happening today, but he even wore an MUFC tie when he took his place in the director’s box. Managers, fans and media commentators can all learn from the values of days gone by.
If this modest road trip by our selfless ’92 Club Plus 1′ fund-raisers can help spread that message it will be an effort far greater than the value of the money raised.