WHEN you’re growing up, footballers are magical. That hasn’t changed regardless of generation.
One day, when I was 17, I was at Anfield buying a ticket to a game when I spotted Craig Johnston in the car park. At that age you’re far too aloof to do the whole fan thing, but I really liked “Skippy” so wandered over to him. He looked a bit bemused at first, but once he realised I wasn’t any danger to him he thawed out and we exchanged a few words.
He’d left something at the ground and this was the only day he could pick it up. I was dying to ask him what it was and wondered if the players have some form of office there, but I was still too cool and debonair to ask such nonsense.
You can carry off a disinterested air at that age. The big stuff happens before your 10th birthday. I would have been apoplectic had I ran into Kenny Dalglish or Ray Kennedy when I was at primary school. I’ve been fortunate enough to meet both since and though there will always be a tingle of “Jesus, that’s Kenny Dalglish,” at such encounters, I could more or less speak with an even voice and resist the urge to ask about their favourite crisps.
That was a big deal to me at the time. Kenny liked cream soda. I knew that from my Kenny Dalglish Football Annual 1979. He preferred the white stuff from Scotland rather than the green variant in Liverpool — delivered by the “Alpine Man” to our homes. It always troubled me that I would never know what crisps he was eating with them. Anyway…
These meetings do something peculiar to the young mind. I wasn’t just talking to the South African-born midfielder about something or nothing that day. No. I was momentarily on his level. Two Liverpool fans chewing the fat.
We were both matchgoers, see. Part of the fabric of the club. The only difference between us was that he was less cramped at Anfield than I was. He asked me where I stood at the game and for an insane second I thought he was going to say “I’ll look out for you”.
Obviously, I name dropped him at every opportunity for the next few weeks. “Yeah, Craig told me that,” I would sniffily tell my mates when discussing Liverpool FC gossip.
— Andrew Robertson (@andrewrobertso5) 7 March 2018
If I was 17 at this point and still affected by that encounter, what the hell is going through Alfie Radford’s mind this week?
For those who don’t know the story, Alfie is the seven-year-old Liverpool fan who donated his pocket money to Fans Supporting Foodbanks – a local initiative set up by both Liverpool and Everton fans. Andy Robertson read about it on Twitter and was impressed enough to send a letter along with a signed Roberto Firmino shirt. The letter read:
“It’s Andy Robertson here from Liverpool.
“I saw on Twitter that you did something very special for the foodbanks at Anfield last night.
“I remember from being your age just how important pocket money is and how there’s hundreds of things you could have bought for yourself with it.
“For you to give that up for people who are having a tough time and need some help to get by is absolutely amazing. Let me tell you now, that is brilliant from you and sets an example to the rest of us that showing a little care and thought for others is really important – it’s also very Liverpool! Foodbanks are a cause very close to my own heart and what you’ve done will stay with me for a long time.
“Anyway – the point of this letter. You’ve done something amazing for other people and expected nothing in return for it. Because of that, I want to make sure it is rewarded.
“I’ve got one of Roberto Firmino’s match shirts from this season and asked him to sign it for you, by way of a thank you for what you did for the foodbanks. Let’s be honest Alfie, no one wants the left back’s shirt – which is why I got you Bobby’s instead. Hope that’s okay.
“I’ll make sure all the lads hear about what you’ve done. You’ve done LFC proud Alfie – your family will be made up with you I’m sure.
“All the best wee man,
— Tom Radford (@TomRadford0) 9 March 2018
Jesus. Give him the armband now!
A letter from a first-team member of Liverpool Football Club and delivered with such humility at the youngster’s selfless act really pulls at the heartstrings. If Alfie’s slept since I’d be amazed.
You hear so many bad things about football players so it’s nice to hear that some of them have an affinity with the people who travel to see them. There are foodbanks outside of Anfield and it’s often struck me as incongruous that a collection for the poor takes place outside the palace that is Anfield.
It’s refreshing then to see a member of Liverpool’s first-team squad recognise that that support should go both ways. Robertson has made many friends over this. A good deed in a naughty world.
Andy has done more than just make the day of a seven-year-old fan. He has brought the world of fan and player closer together. In this one episode, he has made their world accessible to their younger fans and that’s the level of fan engagement that is appreciated the most. Not Mighty Red in the car park.
But he is not the hero of this story. That honour belongs to Alfie Radford. Any child who sees the horrific wrongs of a rich country which cannot feed itself and is happy to help out is special indeed. Alfie is too young for his to be a political statement. It’s a humanitarian one. Surely everyone can agree that people should be able to feed themselves and their families regardless of their political leanings.
Well done, Alfie.
Fans Supporting Foodbanks was set up by the Spirit of Shankly and the Everton Supporters Trust and can be found opposite the Anfield Road stand and at the Park End Fan Zone at Goodison. There are additional food drop-off points at St Luke’s Church and the Wilmslow Hotel pub at Everton and Homebaked at Anfield.