Sunday, 9 May 2010
At The Valley...
The second amazing experience was our trip to The Valley as guests of Charlton Athletic for the visit of Leeds United. The game was massive, a victory for Leeds would secure automatic promotion to the Championship, whilst a win for Charlton would maintain their own hopes of finishing second.
We arrived at the ground in plenty of time and went as instructed to the players entrance. Steve Allen, the head physio and Wallace Fields parent who had arranged everything, welcomed us to the ground and took Adam for a quick tour of the dressing room. We also met Daniel Davenport, who along with his brother and a mate had been out round the pubs collecting for Adam’s Appeal before the game. He’s also planned a collection on May 15th, FA Cup Final day, culminating in a public leg waxing and head shaving in his local town centre. Crazy man! We’d never met Daniel before, he’s simply somebody who was moved by Adam’s story and wanted to help. I find people like him - and there are several - inspirational. One day, when all this has passed, I want to do for others what they are doing for us.
Around 2:30 we made our way out on to the pitch, and 15 minutes later we were presented with a cheque from Charlton for £1,000 by their Managing Director Stephen Kavanagh. Adam was introduced to the crowd and invited to do a lap round the pitch, accompanied by Steve Allen and the rest of us. As we set off the crowd on the tunnel-side of the pitch began to applaud and I tried to persuade Adam to clap them back or at least wave. He was having none of it. I can’t remember what he said to me, but it was clear he wasn’t going to be clapping or waving. I thought to myself ‘this is going to be very long, and very dull’. I also can’t remember what prompted him to start running towards the Leeds end, but run he did. The Leeds fans responded by giving Adam a standing ovation. The video I posted on you tube doesn’t really do it justice, but the noise of all the fans behind the goal clapping was unbelievable. I took over where Adam had let me down and started clapping them back. My god, what a surreal experience.
As we turned the corner and headed back down towards the Charlton end the Leeds fans broke into song ‘We Are Leeds, We Are Leeds, We Are Leeds...’. The niceties had ended!
We were all wearing Adam’s Appeal t-shirts but beneath his Adam had a Charlton polo shirt that he’d been given when we first arrived. I thought it would be a good idea when we got to the fans behind the goal at the Charlton end for Adam to remove his t-shirt. I don’t think it made any difference really. The Charlton fans were fantastic, some were even leaning over the barriers and handing us money. When Adam got back to the tunnel he had a pocket full of notes and coins. The cheeky little toad even asked if he could go to the club shop to spend it. ‘We’ve got enough already, haven’t we?’ he said.
We took our seats to watch the match and I can honestly say it was a game of two halves. The kids watched the first half but had much less interest in the second. Something else quite amazing happened though. Alison, who is allergic to all forms or sport and can’t even bring herself to watch football on television, found herself enjoying it! When Charlton scored what proved to be the winner very late in the second half the crowd erupted. ‘Adam’ I shouted ‘Charlton’ have scored. ‘Good’ Adam replied ‘Now can you tell everybody to hush.’
We really did have a fantastic day, and I have nothing but admiration for Charlton for what they have done for us. The response in the days after the game, both from Charlton and Leeds supporters, was amazing too. With Leeds now having secured automatic promotion and Charlton going into the play-offs it would be fantastic to go back next year and do it again. All we need is for Charlton to do their bit and win the play-offs. Go on The Addicks!