(you should read Part 1 of 2 before embarking on this).
Fast-forward 11 years from 1993. Following that halcyon day with Eddie Mair at the BBC in London, he/she who offered the £600 donated the money, never followed through with a name and address. The BBC couldn’t help with this, so, the bag of football club pennants (minus a few needed to complete the full set), was temporarily ‘filed’ in our loft – and, it must be said, forgotten about.
By 2004, children had grown up and all bar one had left home, and it was only due to a household reshuffle, that the large blue bag was recovered from under a pile of similar bags, full of clothing and other discarded ‘stuff’.
Right – we need to get this show on the road, complete the set and auction it off again for Children in Need.
My work entailed many a tour of the country, so I made it my duty to visit the few clubs whose pennants I didn’t have, and persuade them to contribute to the collection. I shall say straight away that they were only too pleased to help (could they really say ‘no’?). MK Dons didn’t have pennants, so gave free match day tickets or other memorabilia instead, and as for Kidderminster Harriers – well, I’ll save their story for later in this article.
Within a month, I was down to just one unhelpful club who couldn’t enable me to complete the set of 92. Yes, I could have bought one, but that would have spoiled the effect.
After two visits, and being unable to see anyone who could/would help me, I came across a sympathetic receptionist at Newcastle United (being the unhelpful club). Fair to say that they had a well-known reputation at that time for not entertaining charitable donations of this sort. So would they be shamed into it?
The receptionist asked someone to come out and see me. She listened to my story, looked exasperated and defensive in equal measure – probably not helped by me saying that I was due on Radio Newcastle the following day, and ‘it wouldn’t look very good if the only club not to help me, was….’. She narrowed her eyes and sharply told me to ‘Wait here’, and promptly disappeared from whence she came.
5 minutes later she returned, clutching a large brown envelope. To quote her exact words “I haven’t given you this, this is nothing to do with me…” And with a slight lack of good grace, she turned, and exited the reception area. The receptionist and I exchanged triumphant smiles – yes, I had the set, and just in time for my radio appearance on Children in Need Day 2004.
The ‘live’ appearance at BBC Radio Newcastle was a strange affair. The interview, conducted by BBC presenter Martin Emmerson, was fine and friendly, and he was ‘intrigued’ by the gift from Newcastle United, as he was well aware of their stingy reputation.
Then, a few minutes into the interview, Mr Emmerson was bodily picked up by two BBC pranksters known as ‘The Two Dafties’, and who, by listening to their voices on my cassette tape of the programme, sound uncannily like the Hairy Bikers. “Just carry on, Robert, tell the audience a story about the pennants” and leaving me on my own with a ‘live’ microphone, and an audience waiting for pearls of wisdom, if only I could instantly think of some.
My Kidderminster Harriers story fortunately came to mind. They were a club relatively new to the bottom tier of professional football (they have incidentally since dropped out, back to non-league, unfortunately). When I called at their ground, the Aggborough Stadium, I was told that they didn’t provide pennants – other things like mugs, but not pennants. Silence ensued in the office; but then Jenny, their Commercial Manager, said “But we had 100 made when we were promoted into the Football League, and this one hanging on the wall, is the only one left. You can have that – I can’t think of a better place for it to go.”
Eyes began to water on both sides of the counter, as I respectfully refused her kind offer, perhaps knowing that she wouldn’t let me refuse it, and that it genuinely meant a lot to her if I would accept it, which in the end I graciously did. So, full marks to one of football’s minnows, who showed the way in terms of real generosity.
By the time I had finished this story, Mr Emmerson had been released by the Two Dafties, and the conversation began again. A lovely experience all-round, which kindled my desire to somehow get involved with radio – more of which in a future blog post.
The full collection of pennants and memorabilia were auctioned once again, and the highest bidder was Carr Hill Primary School (!) in Gateshead, and I am sure that the pennants are flying high there still.
(Whilst I never did get a recording of my BBC London interview, the BBC Newcastle experience with Martin Emmerson still works, and is among my few remaining cassette tapes).