Many of us football fans are so passionate that we can easily identify with the famous Bill Shankly quotation: “football is not a matter of life and death, it’s more important than that”. Sometimes, passion can lead us to trenchant criticism of our club’s players, particularly when as is the case with NUFC, the club is going through a rocky patch.
That means it is always refreshing when your club heroes step outside of the goldfish bowl of football, and are able to contribute to the other things that matter in life. That is often easier to do once you are retired, as Robbie Elliott showed in his gargantuan European bike ride this year, raising money for the very worthy causes of cancer research and the Bobby Robson Foundation.
So it is all the more admirable when our active players are able to get directly involved in helping support the causes that are close to our own hearts, and which really are a matter of life-and-death. The North East cricket community was therefore hugely grateful to first team squad player Shane Ferguson for his help with charity fundraising associated with the sudden illness of one of our dearest friends.
North Eastern cricketers were shocked last summer to discover that one of the long-standing stalwarts of the local midweek league, Jon Robinson, had been diagnosed with secondary cancer at the young age of 47. When it was clear in early December that this would be terminal, both his clubs, Genetics and Mallards, together with South Northumberland Cricket Club, decided to organise a charity fundraising evening to mark his life.
This was held at the South North sports centre in Gosforth on 21st December this year, and involved an indoor cricket tournament by way of a last testimonial for Jon, including a charity raffle. Unfortunately, a last minute deterioration in Jon’s condition meant that he could not be present, but he was kept up to date with regular texts and calls from the organisers.
We were delighted that Shane gave his full support to the evening. He managed to arrange the full Newcastle United squad to autograph a NUFC shirt, that was raffled on that evening, as well as being present for the first three matches to provide his vocal encouragement.
Around 50 members of the north east cricket community were present, including a large number of NUFC season ticket holders. The fundraising evening raised a total of £1300, which, in accordance with Jon’s wishes, is being split between donations to Cancer Research UK and Marie Curie Hospices.
All involved were extremely grateful to the financial support provided by both SNCC and Genetics in arranging the evening, as well as to Shane for providing his valuable time and personal support for two very worthy causes and a very dear friend.
Jon passed away shortly after, on New Year’s Day after, spending his last days in hospice care. He was delighted and greatly moved by the contributions from all concerned, and for the last testimonial that his sporting colleagues were able to provide.
We would like to record our own thanks to Shane for getting involved here with something that we have to admit, matters more to us than NUFC.
(Photo: the signed shirt arranged by Shane Ferguson – pic courtesy of Jez Greenwood)