The last few weeks have seen a couple of events that coincidently had two things in common: Firstly, they were both fundraisers for causes in some way related to neurological conditions, and secondly; Alex attended both of them.
Event One: Middlesborough FC 1986 Reunion
The first was an event up in Middlesbrough, at the Beechwood, Easterside & District Social (BEADS) Club - billed as a reunion of the Middlesbrough FC squad of 1986 which took the team from financial liquidation to promotion out of the old Third Division in just a few months.
(We have previously published two papers about that mid/late 1980s Middlesbrough team - see here and here - but articles may be behind a pay wall if you are not in a university library).
|Bernie Slaven and team-mates from 1986 talk about the glory days|
The night was in aid of that squad's former young star Gary Parkinson, who now has 'locked in syndrome', a rare neurological disorder in which there is complete paralysis of all voluntary muscles except for the ones that control the movements of the eyes.
|Alex meets Bruce Rioch|
Gary Parkinson and family were in attendance, together with the vast majority of the 1986 squad and its manager, Bruce Rioch, or 'Sir' Bruce as he is known in that part of the world.
As well as most of the stars of 1986 (Pears, Parkinson, Cooper, Mowbray, Pallister, Hamilton, Laws, Ripley, Kerr, Slaven, Stephens, Turnbull, Proudlock, Rioch) another famous face was Mark Proctor, who featured in early and late 1980s Boro teams (with a few years at Sheffield Wednesday in between), as well as darts player Glen 'Duzza' Durrant, and Middlesbrough's current manager (and former 'Boro and England star player) Jonathan Woodgate.
The event was packed out and all tickets were sold. the lucky fans in attendance were able to ask questions and have photos taken with all of the players and Bruce, as well as collect autographs. There was also an auction and autographed photos for sale.
This event was in aid of the Gary Parkinson Trust- for more information please visit https://www.garyparky.co.uk
Event Two: Daniel Parslow Benefit Match (York 2012 v All Stars)
The second event was a testimonial match for York City player Daniel Parslow, whose playing career ended abruptly earlier this year, when he was concussed during a game. Head injury is a serious risk in sports such as football, and Daniel is now championing the use of concussion protocols into the game.
|Programme and badge available to buy outside of the ground|
The two teams involved were a 'Wembley Twice 2012' side, versus an 'All Stars' team of other invited players:
Over a thousand fans attended the game York's Bootham Crescent ground on a cold October Wednesday night, to demonstrate their respect for the player.
|The York 'Wembley Twice 2012' team warm up on a cold autumnal evening|
Bootham is an old fashioned soccer stadium from the days of wooden seats and cups of Bovril - a throwback to the days before plastic seats and prawn sandwiches. It will be a shame to lose that historic atmosphere when the club eventually relocate to its new-build community stadium.
At half time, a presentation was made between Daniel Parslow and the charity Headway which specializes in 'improving life after brain injury' and has assisted Daniel Parslow since his concussion. To find out more about brain injury or to find your local Headway, visit headway.org.uk or call its nurse-led freephone helpline on 0808 8002244.
|Photographers capture the half-time presentation between Daniel and Headway|
The game was equally competitive and fun - at one point in the first half former York star striker Jon Parkin, playing for the All Stars, had the ball taken from his feet by one of his own players, which received laughter and cheers from the crowd and players. Then Parkin put on the goalie's jersey for the second half, making some great saves, but also being beaten on a few occasions.
|A rare photo of Jon Parkin keeping goal, instead of scoring goals.|
Goals came thick and fast, so much so that even Soccer Mad Boffins lost count and it may have ended 7-5 to the 'Wembley Twice 2012' team, or was it the other way round? Or were there even more goals? Answers on a postcard please, if you were there! (update: According to newspaper The York Press, the All-Stars won 7-4! news report all about the game can be found here)
|Action at one end of the field....|
|...and then at the other|
|Goooaaalllll! Pick that one out of the net, etc. Just one of many goals that were scored!|
At the end of the game all of the players lined up for commemorative photographs, and received a round of applause from the crowd, who clapped in unison as the tannoy announcement urged us to 'keep the faith' to a soundtrack of Status Quo's hit 'Rockin' All Over the World'.
|legends re-united: a group photo opportunity after 90 minutes|
The crowd dispersed into the night, over a thousand of us on a chilly Wednesday night in October, shows how much the fans wanted to show their appreciation and support the great players and this great cause.
|Over 1000 fans attended to support a great cause|
(For a research paper about fans in lower league and non-league soccer, visit here - if you can't access the published paper you can access a pre-print draft version here)