An exchange on twitter with Sean Jarvis, Commercial Director of newly promoted npower Championship side Huddersfield Town led to an initial meet with the West Yorkshire club to explore how we might join forces to raise awareness of dementia at one of their forthcoming home games.
Having recently launched the Huddersfield Town Foundation, which is aiming to serve up 200,000 meals to local school breakfast clubs, the club looked to support their fans at the other end of the age spectrum and a plan came together.
With a huge amount of time and energy from all at the club, promotion for the football memories game was launched. Former Town players supplied memories for media articles, plans for the match were covered by local and regional newspapers and fans quickly engaged in pre match chatter on Twitter. Along with bringing their favourite football memories along to pin on the Memory Board, fans were asked to come to the game in their all time favourite Huddersfield Town shirt. Many a dilemma was discussed on twitter, leading to a few to discover that through the passage of time, favoured shirts had either been shrunk in the wash or (possibly more likely) waist lines had expanded a touch!
Fans were also asked ahead of the game to vote on the picture for the front cover of the match-day programme ‘Give us an H’. Town legend Andy Booth was the overwhelming choice and we had the honour of being greeted by the man himself on our arrival at the ground.
A surprise was in store immediately as one of our guests for the day, Roger Jones of Age UK, presented us with a football signed by 3 of England’s World Cup winners of 1966- Nobby Stiles, George Cohen and a player who started his career at Huddersfield Town, Ray Wilson. Wilson was signed by Bill Shankly in the 1950’s when he turned professional and went on to have a tremendous career, as of course did Shankly!
We were also joined at the game by Shaun Campbell, the driving force behind the Arthur Wharton foundation. Arthur was the world’s first black professional footballer and also the first holder of the world record for the 100-yard sprint. Shaun and the foundation have been energetic supporters of the work of the SMN and we share many common aims and goals as organisations.
SMN directors Chris Wilkins and Michael White were then called to the stage in the impressive hospitality suite by former player Trevor Cherry who presented the pair with a HTAFC shirt signed by all the players, whilst I had the chance for chats with the chairman Dean Hoyle, Commercial Director Sean Jarvis, reminisced about Neil Warnock with Town legend Andy Booth and had a lovely chat with Look North presenter and all round sports fan Harry Gration.
The theme of each feature in the match-day programme was football memories. Town manager Simon Grayson and club chairman Dean Hoyle shared their top football moments in their programme notes. New signing James Vaughan was the focus for the in-depth player interview. James shared several standout moments of his career and reminisced about his childhood and youth.
Also contained in the programme were facts and figures about dementia, including practical advice on what to do if fans were concerned about their own memory or that of a loved one, along with signposts to organisations providing help and advice.
Bright sunshine bathed the John Smith’s Stadium and as fans began to arrive, the gusty West Yorkshire wind proved something of a challenge for the club staff and volunteers from the game’s co-sponsors Sporting Memories Network, Meridian Healthcare and BUPA as the Gazebo erected by the ticket office threatened to take off into the bright blue yonder.
Along with a memory board for fans to pin their favourite memories to, there were old games to play such as hopscotch and a very popular old style sweet stall which was doing a roaring trade in supplying fans, all for a donation to Town’s nominated charity.
A lovely touch came from a Derby County fan who arrived at the Gazebo with 5 of his all time favourite football shirts to add to the display, one being his prized Robbie Savage number 8 shirt.
2:50pm and guests and directors from the Sporting Memories Network were invited to join the other sponsors in the semi-circle to welcome the teams out on to the pitch. Within 60 seconds of the kick off, Town scored, the stadium erupted and the seeds of another home win and 3 points had been sown.
Half-time saw a selection of fans lined up on the centre circle in a bright array of favourite old shirts, whilst guest of honour, current Yorkshire County Cricket captain, Andrew Gale, who is a big Town fan did the honours drawing the lottery numbers. Andy Booth had his memory tested in a Huddersfield Town history quiz too.
90 minutes and Town had secured 3 points.
Back to the hospitality suite to be regaled with footballing memories by former England striker Frank Worthington. A terrific description of ‘The greatest goal that was ever scored’ was followed by a number of other fond memories of his time at Huddersfield and beyond.
One last surprise was in store as I was invited up on stage to present the Man of the Match champagne to the on loan signing and former Liverpool FC academy player Adam Hammill. Despite being put on the spot with a brief interview, it was easy to answer why the SMN had got involved with Huddersfield Town.
Huddersfield Town is a club building a great relationship within their local community through the vision and drive of their directors and staff.
It was an honour to have worked with Town on a game that was dedicated to raising awareness of dementia and to team up with them for the first football memories match in England.
Thanks to Sue, Robyn, Jamie, Sean and all the team at the John Smith’s stadium.
Sporting Memories Network