Jack O’Connell, the Sheffield United defender, has been praised for a “touch of class” gesture after dipping his hand in his pocket to help out his local non-league club in his native Liverpool.
O’Connell donated almost £400 to help Litherland Remyca FC reach their fundraising goal of £2,500, after they were kicked out of the FA Cup due to an administrative error.
That figure of £2,500 would have been their prize money for winning the tie, against Leek Town, and a JustGiving page was set up to raise that amount. The donation from O’Connell, who played for Litherland’s U18s as a 16-year-old and was the club’s youth player of the year in 2011, saw that goal achieved yesterday.
“For every pound and every donation we would like to thank everybody, including Jack,” Sam Barnes, of Litherland, told The Star.
“Jack didn’t have to donate at all, so for him to donate and help us reach the target shows a touch of class from the man and also shows that he hasn’t forgot his roots. So for that we would like to thank Jack and to reiterate he will always be welcome back – as a player but more likely as a supporter!”
Club chairman Donnie Rimmer added: “As a 16-year-old Jack starred for our U18 team and was always destined to be a player. We have tracked his career from when he signed for Blackburn to playing at Rochdale, Brentford and Sheffield United. And it means a lot for this club that one of our lads has come through to be what he is today, playing at such a high level.
“Jack’s gesture is fantastic and greatly appreciated by us all, but it doesn’t surprise us. He has remained close to his roots on Merseyside and is a down to earth decent individual, respected by us all. Thanks again Jack.”
The club were expelled from the FA Cup after fielding a player who had been banned for one game after failing to pay a £10 fine, picked up while at a former club. The Liverpool FA failed to notify Litherland, and they were booted out of the competition after a disciplinary hearing at Wembley.
“It’s easy to blame a matchday secretary, chairman, manager and player but something about this didn’t seem right as every role mentioned do their job honestly and to the best of their knowledge on a daily basis,” Sam added.
“£2500 is a lot of money for any non-league club with most clubs relying on the sheer hard work of volunteers to stay afloat and for the Remyca it’s no different.
“Litherland Reymca football club didn’t ask for this crowdfund and the people behind the scenes are not the type of people to make noise as they are very respectful people, but in my opinion this was not right!
“I am glad there are people out there who understand non-league football and understand how much work goes in to these type of clubs – without the volunteers there is no club. Every penny will go to the club to help with equipment, weekly running costs and to help cover costs of the new Portakabins which allow the club to provide refreshments and to generate a family atmosphere on a match day.”
Chairman Rimmer said: “We have made great progress in recent seasons, achieving non league status and qualifying to play in the best domestic cup competition in the world - the FA Cup. This is massive for a club at our level and provides much-needed finance desperately needed to stay afloat season to season.
“To be eliminated by the FA on a minor technicality, not of our doing was hard to take and impacted financially as all the prize money gained from previous rounds was withdrawn. Although we received many messages of support we were hand to mouth financially and struggling – but faith was restored when the JustGiving page raised the money.”