Stars from both Sheffield United and Sheffield Wednesday to step out for charity match
A Sheffield Wednesday fan who has raised thousands of pounds for charity by taking the field alongside the likes of Carlton Palmer and David Hirst is looking forward to adding more of his former heroes – from both sides of the Sheffield divide – to the list.
Darren Clapham, who first organised the ‘Reds vs Blues’ match as a nothing more than a kickabout among friends to raise cash for local charities, will strap on his boots next to several ex-pros once again as the 2019 fixture takes place on Saturday.
The premise is simple; former stars and supporters play in the colours of their club. And this year, the likes of John Francis, Matt Hamshaw and Simon Marples will add to the swelling number of football league faces to have played in the match. Former Premier League referee Uriah Rennie will take the whistle.
Over 1,000 spectators watched the fixture last year. Darren, 47, said: “It’s been fantastic and we could never have dreamt it would have grown like this.
“It started out as just a kick about between mates. One day Carlton Palmer contacted me on Twitter asking whether he could play and it’s just gone on and on from there.
“I was on the pitch marking Miguel Llera one year and he was thanking me for letting him play. I couldn’t believe it! I was thinking, ‘I should be the one thanking you!’ The guys that come down are always so down to earth and they can’t do enough for you.”
Charities to have benefitted from the Reds v Blues match include the Royal British Legion, St Luke’s Hospice and the Hillsborough Army Cadets. Darren’s wife, Lucy Fairest-Clapham, has helped to organise the event in recent years and says the total windfall raised is somewhere in the region of £10,000.
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Boxing personalities such as Liam Cameron and trainer Steve Bailey will also join in on Saturday, alongside actor Joe Warren Plant, who plays Jacob Gallagher in Emmerdale.
“It’s been just brilliant,” she said, “the last few years have been amazing and it’s been great to see how people get behind it like they have.
“We’ve held it at Hillsborough Arena for years now and the response we get is incredible every year. To get footballers and celebrities coming down and getting involved, it’s wonderful.”
Also involved is Sheffield Star columnist Alan Biggs, who will use his decades of knowledge covering the city’s two teams as joint-manager of one of the teams, together with former Wednesday physio Paul Smith.
Alan said: “It’s a great event and it raises a fortune for charity. The rivalry between reds and blues in this city is fierce, but you understand it so much better on a day like that, when people come together for a greater cause.
“People talk about hatred, and that rivalry is massive, but hate is a strong word. The supporters and players and everyone connected with either club are usually proper football people. It’s a wonderful way for one of the great footballing cities to come together.”
The match will take place at Hillsborough Arena on Middlewood Road from 2.30pm. Entry is free, although a donation of your choice is recommended. All proceeds will be split between the Sheffield Children’s Hospital and the Army Cadets.