We have a fantastic relationship with Reading Football Club and their fans, thanks to our Challenge 42 and 52 events in the last 2 years, so we decided it was only right to give another Royals fan a chance to be mascot. We chose the Manchester United game for Gordon to have his treat and our friend, Alice Baillie, who also nominated Gordon, kindly agreed to tag along and tell us all about the day.
This weekend the dreams of one little boy came true as he walked out onto the pitch with his footballing idols for one of Reading FC’s biggest games of the season, Manchester Utd, all thanks to the amazing work of the charity Free Kicks Foundation.
Last season you might remember that Rhys was lucky enough to be given the chance to be mascot for Reading FC vs Peterborough Utd (who are friends of his… as strange as that sounds) and he still talks about it to this day.
This season we nominated one of Kyd’s friends, who sits next to us at the Madejski Stadium, to receive a once in a lifetime chance to walk beside his favourite players from Reading FC and some of the worlds most well known football stars like, Wayne Rooney, Robin Van Persie, Rio Ferdinand amongst others. This must be every young budding footballers dream, but for this child it was one that was long awaited and much deserved.
Gordon was adopted by an amazing couple in October 2011, after a long drawn out high court battle. He was removed from his birth family at 18 months and placed with his now dad and his first wife at roughly age 2, a short while later the relationship ended and Gordon remained with his now Dad. The couple then met in 2006 and married in 2009 which then caused further delays in the adoption process.
Gordon has several behavioural problems and learning difficulties. He self harms and has global development delay. He is 11 and functioning as an 8 year old. He goes to a special school in Oxford and has severe ways of getting people’s attention, leaving life difficult for all but especially him.
So on the day Rhys and I had been asked by Steve at Free Kicks Foundation to go along and represent the charity and be official photographers…. We weren’t exactly going to say no now were we?
We met up with Gordon and his family at the Madejski Stadium and discussed what was going to happen. His mum knew months ago but Gordon was told much later. He was so excited but I don’t think he really knew what was going to be happening once we were inside and so began the excited questions…
Once inside we met up with Gill from Reading FC who organises the Mascots. We’ve met Gill several times now and Rhys was very matter of fact with his ‘you know who I am’ stance! He was so cool about it, he showed Gordon the way round the place like it was his own house and tried to explain what he was going to be doing in his Kyd like way…. Gordon is very patient with him, as his speech is very poor if there are bits he doesn’t understand he just looks at me and I translate and then he nods and goes on with his conversation.
We started in the lounge/bar with the other mascots and their families. They all looked as excited as Gordon, in their kits and with their goody bags, what a day for all of them. The young lads from the academy who were co-ordinating the Mascots for that game met us there. They were brilliant, very up beat and understanding of Gordon’s situation. One of them even recognised Rhys from before and started chatting to him, I love that they are so inclusive and natural with all the kids, it melts my heart a little. They had a lot to organise at this game as there were 9, yes 9, mascots and so there was a lot of children to keep in one place… they did it though, for so young they were very good at co-ordinating children! Much better than me anyway!! Hats off to them.
The lads led us down stairs where we stood in the tunnel and watched the boys line up to meet the players in the changing rooms. I must admit Rhys was a little confused as to why he wasn’t going in too but he soon understood when I explained it again that he’s already done it and that he was very kind and let Gordon do it this time. Gordon was bouncing along as he went in and the lads who were taking them in gave us the nod of he’ll be fine… **As much as we tried… we weren’t allowed in! Apparently it’s a girl free zone! boooooo**
We stood and waited pitch side as the mascots got their autograph books signed and chatted with the players. As they came out the mascot co-ordinator looked worn out… like it’d been ‘an experience’… we knew that Gordon would have been doing his question overload thing, so we instantly knew why.
There was a bit of a wait after this and so it was time for a few pictures and to get ready for a bit of football on the pitch as the players warmed up. Kyd and Gordon sat in the Dug Out quite patiently and then as the Man Utd players came out to warm up I think it suddenly hit both of them who they were!… Whilst they boo’d…. YEP they boo’d them!…. to their faces… I was so proud yet so horrified all at the same time. They suddenly got even more excited as they saw Rooney rock up, their faces were a picture! I know Rhys is a huge Rooney fan… but only when in an England kit, so to see him in the flesh was excitement overload!
As the Reading boys came out they ran past us and everyone clapped. Rhys as cool as day, gave them the nod… the boy amuses me!… They were followed by the academy players that were doing some warm ups with the mascots and the mascots themselves including Gordon, he looked so proud of himself walking on the pitch… keeping Rhys from following them was hard work but he stood and watched…. WELL until he spotted Kingsley and Queensley the mascots and then he was jumping on them excitedly instead.
THEN Rhys spotted good old Sir John Madejski, Chairman of Reading FC, and as a huge fan and old friend of John’s he jumped out at him shouting John, John and then hugged his legs… It may have given him a heart attack but graceful as ever, he smiled and chatted with him unphased. What a lovely man he is. Much to Gordon’s mum’s amusement he then went on to call the lady from the Young Royal’s his girlfriend and chatted to Noel Hunt about pizza and socks… as you do!… He’s like part of the furniture now I think lol.
Anyway whilst Rhys was amusing us pitch side, Gordon was running around passing the ball to the players and acting like a real pro and he looked like one too, I might add! He came off out of breath and buzzing after a short while he was ushered over to get ready for his big moment! Whilst going down the tunnel with the boys to get ready for Kick Off he gave us a huge grin!… my heart melted, he was so excited.
Gordon’s Big Moment!
With a packed out stadium, an announcement over the speakers, a huge round of applause and a cheer of URZZZZ the players and mascots came out of the tunnel to greet the officials and shake each others hands. Gordon was holding Adam Federici’s hand (the goal keeper) and casually shook the hands of the Man Utd team and the officials as if it was an every day thing. He posed for a photo and ran off with the others….
….and then the Whistle blew for Kick Off time.
We walked around the side of the pitch and back to our normal seats (whilst bumping in to a few known faces and getting chatted up by random Away fans on the way past… awkward!).
I lost count of how many times Gordon thanked me and how many times I caught him smiling to himself.
I felt all teary and emotional…
…but I’m unsure if this was because of his joy or the fact we scored against Man Utd a whopping 3 times… It was a bloody good game… even though we lost 3-4… It’s emotional being a Reading Fan you know!!
I’d like to thank FreeKicks for creating this amazing opportunity for Gordon (and us too) and also Reading FC for being so supportive and welcoming to both FreeKicks and Gordon…. and Kyd obviously!
OH and Thank You Noel Hunt for agreeing to sign some socks for the next FreeKicks Socktober! He’s a good sport!
Day well spent I think!
Well done Gordon!