It was wet, windy, cold and I’d spent half an hour curling my hair for it to last a matter of minutes before resembling a collective of rats tails, falling unattractively around my face, which was also streaked with the remnants of my carefully applied make-up.
But still, I was watching football (a game that in the most part I detest) with more than 50 children from youth teams throughout the country who participate in Game On, a programme organised by our client The Coalfields Regeneration Trust and delivered by The Football League Trust.
Game On aims to take children from some of the most deprived areas of the UK and encourage them to take part in free football training sessions, which take place on two evenings each week. Not only does this programme have a direct impact on anti-social behaviour by providing young people with something to do, but it also teaches those involved about health and wellbeing, participation, commitment, social interaction and engagement.
Knowing that in situations like this the best approach is to roll your sleeves up – metaphorically, it was freezing! – and get on with it, that is exactly what I did.
I was surprised to find that I soon got into the game and was cheering along with the best, especially when one particular player who happened to be a girl made an amazing tackle, which left the side lines squinting never mind the opponent rolling around on the floor!
More than 3 hours later and we were into the final rounds, there were cheers and jeers, banter and back chat but the attitude of all involved really was to be commended. Each team took to the game with the passion you would expect but also with a sportsmanship that belied their teenage years.
The final was a close call with Wigan A and B teams literally taking the title from under the nose of Doncaster when they were chosen on goal difference as the contenders for the next round of the championship, which takes place in Scotland on 1 November.
Next came the bit I had been looking forward to most (until the drenching earlier in the day, which had now resulted in me looking less like a drowned rat and more like I had been dragged through a hedge backwards) we were going to watch the Derby versus Millwall match.
But that wasn’t all, the Wigan winners would get the chance to have a special trophy presented on the pitch! As we walked out of the tunnel I caught my breath – it’s no secret that I am no real football fan – but this was amazing.
Stood in front of an audience of more than 27,000 people the Wigan teams were presented with their trophy and as if that wasn’t enough they were then asked to look up – a huge screen projected their smiling faces to the whole crowd.
I have to admit that I had a lump in my throat whilst I watched them all waving and jumping to be seen. It really was spectacular.
The game ended 0 – 0 but that didn’t really matter. The atmosphere was great and Rammy, Derby County FC’s mascot, made an appearance and danced around the pitch. The team at Derby were fantastic and whether they realise it or not I am sure that they have created memories that the Game On finalists will never forget.
As for me, I’m pleased to be warmed up but the event was certainly worth braving the weather for. Thanks to the Coalfields Regeneration Trust, Derby County Football Club, The Football League Trust and all of the clubs who took the time to compete in the Game On finals. For those who didn’t win, there’s always next year!