Tuesday, 8 May 2012


There’s something in the eyes of children when they see someone famous. Like they can’t believe the person in front of them is actually real. They whisper excitedly, shuffle nervously from foot to foot, frozen almost - plucking up the courage to talk to them.

Who better then to represent the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation at the former Newcastle United manager’s old school Langley Park Primary School and effortlessly put the children at ease than two of the teams’ current stars Steve Harper and Shola Ameobi. Laid back and relaxed, patient and thoughtful, Steve and Shola gave their time in a manner Sir Bobby would have been proud of.

Having been invited to the school by The Times North East football reporter, Foundation Patron and former pupil himself George Caulkin, the players - two of three still at the club who played under Sir Bobby - were visiting the school for several reasons: to collect a large cheque on behalf of the Foundation resulting from the school’s recent fundraising efforts (currently topping £1200 for the last two events), and also to offer encouragement to the pupils in a village close to the hearts of Sir Bobby and his family.

It was here Sir Bobby grew up – and later working in the village’s pit - before Fulham FC and professional football came calling.  Appropriately enough, it was in the school yard where the stars of today and maybe tomorrow really got a chance to mix. The players joined in with an impromptu kickabout during afternoon playtime, giving even the most shy of pupils a chance to shine.

Back inside there was time for a question and answer session with Year 4 pupils where Shola shared his excitement on playing for his hometown team and Steve encouraged the children to stay in school – as he had despite offers from several clubs during his A’levels. There was also a prize giving assembly to reward the most original costumes from the latest fundraising initiative at the school – a sports themed fancy dress day. A football signed by the players was the precious prize for a winning pupil from each class in the school.

And it was definitely a day for North East unity, a chance to put club allegiances to one side for a while in favour of fundraising, as the Newcastle United players discovered they’d given a prize to a boy whose costume had been a Sunderland kit.
And what of the shy, quiet children at first frightened to approach the superstar footballers? Still tongue tied? Not a bit of it. They took their chance to ask questions, chat, play more football and even give interviews to ITV Tyne Tees News! A great, great day full of passion, pride and fundraising. Just as Bobby would have liked it.

A massive thank you to the staff at Langley Park Primary School for their hospitality and to Newcastle United, and of course to Steve and Shola. Congratulations to the fancy dress competition winners, and to all the children and their families for their fundraising efforts.

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