We catch up with our exhausted Chief Executive at the end of the first day of his charity walk with Jeff Stelling.
What a day that has been!
The following we had this morning and the support we got from fans was simply incredible. There were people there from Sunderland, Newcastle, Derby, Shrewsbury – there was even one walker who had come over from Sweden to join us. It was a amazing.
Once we left The Vic we proceeded to take the longest-ever route to the Transporter Bridge in Middlesbrough. I’ve never known anything like it – but having said that, people were giving me a bit of stick because Jeff kept saying I set off “like Usain Bolt”. I don’t think that will last as the ten days go on…
The welcome we got when we reached Middlesbrough’s Riverside Stadium was absolutely brilliant too. All the staff came out to wave us in and show us some support, it was a fantastic moment. They really looked after us well and we got a bit of food and did some photos – but I think people were starting to seize up so it was good to get back going again after that.
Actually, there was a funny moment at Middlesbrough because all the way from Hartlepool Alistair Campbell had been teasing Ray Wilkins about being a ‘southern softie’- but then Alistair had really bad blisters and couldn’t make it any further after Boro! In fact, I think there are some photos floating around of him asleep on the train back to Burnley!
That next stage was quite testing at times though; there was a gravel path to negotiate which was bumpy and not the best to walk on so that hasn’t been a particular highlight of Day One! But once we got back on the road we soon went past Redcar Steelworks and in to Redcar where we got another great welcome.
Redcar Juniors had come out to support us which was fantastic and we were able to stop for a little more refreshment before moving on towards our final destination of Marske United.
When we got in to Marske it was another touching moment because there was a real carnival atmosphere there with a brass band playing and bouncy castles for the kids too. It was great. I really felt like we had put Hartlepool on the map at that point.
I was also able to get a photo with the Maidens family who had turned out to welcome us there. Michael’s two brothers actually did the walk with us but then when we reached Marske, his parents Heather and Doug were there with the rest of the family which was quite a poignant moment.
I think one of Jeff’s best and most touching moments of the day was when a lady came up and told him that she had watched Soccer Saturday a while back and saw him wearing a badge on his suit jacket but didn’t know what it was, so Googled it and found it was a Prostate Cancer UK logo.
Not long after, her father developed some symptoms and they immediately took him to the doctors where he was diagnosed with quite an advanced case of Prostate Cancer. They operated immediately and thankfully he’s on the road to recovery – but if they hadn’t seen Jeff wearing the badge on television then they would never have known and he may not have been here now. That was a moving moment for Jeff and everyone else really.
A relaxing moment at Marske came when their team physio gave Jeff, Ray and I a massage – it was brilliant after the day we had had. Until Ray found out that the physio was also a veterinary masseuse and worked on horses – he was a bit unsure after that! Ha!
I have to say though, that Ray has been absolutely immense all day. He’s a tremendous fella and he’s been fantastic with press, fellow walkers and supporters – he’s a wonderful bloke to be around.
Higgy disappeared at Marske and came back wearing a Prostate Cancer t-shirt and when people asked what he was up to he told them “I’m off now – I’m going to run back to Hartlepool!” He’s been great for keeping the spirits up today and I’m delighted that the Manager came and showed support for what we’re doing, it was fantastic.
After we’d sorted ourselves out we got in the car to our overnight base in York – and when we arrived at the hotel, dishevelled and exhausted, carrying our suitcases sideways across the road and walking like cowboys we looked up and saw him… Chris Kamara standing at the entrance to the hotel with a pint of lager, shouting “Unbelievable Jeff!!” We all laughed, but he’s got it all to come on Tuesday…
Thanks again for the support – look out for another update on Tuesday.