I wanna tell you a story as Max Bygraves used to say. Around eighteen months ago, I started working in Manchester city centre again and fairly quickly became aghast at the number of people living on the street. Not just opportunist chancers squatting on the pavement on Piccadilly with a Starbucks cup plonked in front of them. But early morning bundles of rags huddled in doorways fast asleep and shivering, people who’d been there all night.
I wrestle with my conscience a lot. I spend 12 hours a day out every day and then come home and support the family, make tea, get the little un to bed. I don’t have time to think, don’t have time to relax in this modern world in which we’re told life is great and we’re getting out of recession and unemployment is down; what they don’t tell you is that people are working longer and harder for less money and fewer benefits, lower pensions, if at all.
But I have a bed to go to at night, unlike many people who live on the streets.
Enough politics, back to the story. Sometimes I catch the train and end up doing that funny “Bod-style” fast walk thing on my way to catch the train home and don’t have time to stop and acknowledge or hand over money. I’ve been made redundant a couple of times recently and like many working families we struggle with debt and a big mortgage and I occasionally question whether the 9-5 (7 to 7 more like) slog is actually that much of a life in itself. Like a lot of families we have a big mortgage and a lot of credit card debt but I go home each night to a warm house and comfy bed while our little girl wants for nothing while being taught the value of everything. See I’m lucky really?
So I made a pact with myself. If I was still in my job at Christmas (last Christmas), I’d draw a hundred quid out of the bank and give a tenner each to ten homeless people on the streets. And I did, sort of.
I also drive in sometimes and park on the Arndale. There’s always fellas sat by the pay machine. They engage you in conversation and then ask if you have any spare change to go towards a meal. I suspect their diet may actually involve something slightly more illicit but I humour one or two of them and gave one of them a fiver one Friday as I was heading home to enjoy a nice meal and a few beers.
It got awkward after that. How do you say to someone “sorry mate not today” when those doleful, helpless eyes look up at you? I can’t give them money every time I see them, every day can I?
So what I did was that I started going up to the next floor and paying my car park ticket there and making my way back down via the ramp. But there was another fella there begging at that machine. It became like an elaborate game of chess which I wasn’t very good at.
I tried getting the lift right to the top floor and back down the stairs but again my mate was there, this time huddled in the stairwell. Stalking me.
Then Christmas came and I had a deal to honour. There’s generally two of them, a younger chatty lad with a skinhead and a really haggard looking fella with a long grey beard who in reality is possibly younger than the other one. One floor each, squatting next to the machine asking shoppers for change.
I dodged the bloke on the 5th and went up to the 7th, the haggard one was there. A weak voice came from below “Spare any change mate”. I pulled a tenner out “There you go mate, look after yourself”
I walked off, went down the floors, back down the stairs to my own car to be met by an impressive sight: this frail, wizened, old man had leapt down the other stairs to his mate and appeared to do doing a jig which would put Michael Flatley to shame. It was like the final scenes of Fame: The Movie, all high fives and pirouettes.
I’m sure he saw me as I drove off as he looked a touch sheepish, whilst I felt a little bit duped. Either way this episode made me decide that I needed to change my tack so I donated £50 each to two homeless charities in Manchester instead to ensure the money goes directly to someone who would have a far better idea than me of how to allocate it.
I don’t want a medal for this. Indeed I wouldn’t have ever mentioned it, if it weren’t relevant to this week’s theme on This Northern Soul. You see, my colleague, Neill Rimmers Perm got on his high horse and rode into town over the subject of ticket pricing this week.
It was a simple premise: £36 is too much money for a football match. It priced me out personally, so we hit upon the idea of donating what you can afford to The Brick homeless shelter in Wigan instead. Give the money to someone who really needs it at Christmas.
Not everyone agreed with it, which is fair enough – there are valid reasons to do so but it has gained national exposure and good publicity for a club whose public image has been dragged through the mud in recent weeks and sadly, we as fans get quickly tarred with the same brush.
We wanted to make a stand against ticket prices and enhance that by giving something back to the community. The outcome has been a positive one, albeit perhaps misguided. As a result, there a lot of people (well 500 actually) who should be thanking Alan (NRP) for putting £20 back in their pocket. Including no doubt some of those who disagreed with him or have subsequently tried to take credit for the resulting outcome.
I still think it’s brilliant because what we have shown is that it’s very easy to sit there and take it by doing nothing but it’s also not really too difficult to make a stand by coming up with a simple idea that can make a huge difference.
I’m still not going to Leeds, I’ve given £20 to The Brick instead but by going to Leeds they will still end up getting £36 off me even though it won’t cost me anymore. And just to clarify, this is not “about Leeds” before you start, it could be any club.
Nor am I saying my way is the right way, just that that is what I wanted to do.
After a maelstrom of a few weeks, I’m proud of the way our fans have reacted and can come together like this with the political and charitable spirit that runs through its core be it
- The Anthony Ramsdale Appeal
- The Emma Hoolin Appeal
- Josephs Goal
- Walk for Tilly
Tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of pounds raised for good causes by fans of Wigan Athletic. And that long held Wigan tradition of simply not standing for something when you think it’s unjust. Long may it continue.
We get frequently mocked by other clubs for our support. We may not have the numbers but we find other ways to demonstrate our support. By boycotting it is indeed withdrawing support, however £36 will make a massive difference to a food bank and is a much more worthy cause than emptying into some rich chairman’s pocket. Clearly, I’m not alone.
When you look through the above appeals, well far from being the worst fans in the country as some away day banter merchants and Bolton fans would have it. Well, I’d say pound for pound we have a core of support that are among the best.
To finish, I’d like to iterate the request being made by many fans, across social media, that the club make a donation to The Brick charity, given their actions have benefited the fans but may well have hindered what was a very well-meaning attempt to fund raise.
And if you are a Wigan Athletic fan reading the above and it strikes a chord, then if you can afford to do the same then please do so.
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