Sheffield Wednesday fundraiser to remember a forgotten legend

Franz Beckenbauer signs a shirt for the campaign
Franz Beckenbauer signs a shirt for the campaign
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A star-studded fundraising evening in memory of a forgotten football legend is to be held by Sheffield Wednesday in the new year.

Patrick O’Connell, who played for the Owls for three seasons before the First World War, captained Ireland and Manchester United and later became manager of FC Barcelona.

Patrick saved the Catalan giants from extinction during the Spanish Civil War by taking them on a fundraising tour of Mexico.

But despite his success Patrick died in destitution in London in 1959 and is still buried in an unmarked grave.

Now a campaign has been launched to build a memorial to the Irishman’s achievements at the cemetery where he is buried.

And on February 27 Wednesday will hosting an evening in aid of the fund which will be attended by former players, historians, dignitaries and members of Mr O’Connell’s family.

Club spokesman Trevor Braithwait said Patrick’s career was probably unique in football history.

“He helped to save one of the greatest clubs in world football, FC Barcelona, and so we are very happy to host this night and put our name to it,” he said.

“I think people will be surprised at how many big names will want to be there and get involved.”

A who’s who of football legends have already donated signed shirts to the campaign, including Franz Beckenbauer, Johan Cruyff, Martin O’Neill, Paolo Maldini, Wayne Rooney, Gareth Bale, Luis Figo and Sir Bobby Charlton.

Campaign member Fergus Dowd said Wednesday were Patrick’s first club in England, and he joined them from Belfast Celtic after the Owls paid a transfer fee of £50.

“He later became the first £1,000 transfer when he joined Manchester United,” he said.

“Patrick was also the first Irishman to play for United and captain the club, and captained Ireland to the Home Championship playing with a broken arm in the final game against Scotland.

“Later he went to Spain, managing Real Betis to the league title before taking over at Barcelona. Without Patrick’s tour to Mexico there would be no Barcelona FC today,” he added.