Hodgy Gets On His Bike
by Scott Thornberry - 16th July 2015
On Friday 12 June 2015 a 250-strong team of cyclists departed Leyton Orient’s Brisbane Road ground on an approximate 145 mile two day cycling marathon to The Amsterdam Arena, home of the mighty Ajax FC in the Netherlands to help raise funds for Prostate Cancer UK, the Official Charity Partner of The Football League. The event has so far raised over £305,000 to help fight a disease affecting 1 in 8 men.
The cycling army included a host of sporting personalities, and football fans including ‘Team Middlesbrough’s former Darlington Manager David Hodgson. This season I’m supporting Men United, the movement for everyone who believes men are worth fighting for, by interviewing a range of well-known football faces on my travels with my club York City. I met David to gather his views on the race but to also cast his mind back to what was quite possibly his greatest moment as manager of Darlington FC, and why he is no stranger to raising money for worthy causes.
In January 2004, Darlington managed by Hodgson had been placed into administration as the club’s finances were spiralling out of control having moved to an oversized 27,500 all-seater stadium on the edge of town six months earlier. To make matters worse for The Quakers, their scheduled home match against Northampton Town on Saturday 24 January 2004 had been postponed as a result of The Cobblers ongoing FA Cup run.
”Man United were supposed to play Northampton when we were due to play Northampton and our game was cancelled but we needed that game because we were living week to week on gate money” David recalled. “There was huge panic on behalf of the administration”.
With the severe threat of liquidation looming David made a decision to help stave off the immediate threat of closure and grab a lifeline for his beloved club and approached the Administrators of the club with the idea of hosting a fundraising game at the stadium.
With the Administrators approval, David proceeded to call on some friends within the game to help assemble four teams to play two fundraising matches back to back. “The moment Kenny (Dalglish) said ‘I’ll play Hodgy’, it opened the door for everybody else so we had David Fairclough, Alan Kennedy, Gary Gillespie, Kenny and Bryan Robson who is one of our own and Gazza. It was a phenomenal occasion and I must say that Peter Barron at The Northern Echo played a huge part in helping promote the club.”
The star studded event was a huge success for the town with a record crowd of over 14,000 turning up at the Arena raising over £100,000 for the club giving the club more time until a buyer was found and David is forever thankful to the fans for their efforts when the going has got tough for Darlington over the past two decades prior to the fans takeover in 2012.
“Darlington’s a small town but when the clubs in need somehow people come forward”.
David’s fundraising has continued outside of football. He is a keen cyclist and attends two charity cycling events a year. David’s ‘Team Middlesbrough’ raised around £7000 for Prostate Cancer UK at this year’s London to Amsterdam Cycle Challenge.
“The organisation of the whole event was absolutely fantastic” said David. “My only disappointment was that there wasn't enough football clubs (of the 92 Football League clubs) participating in the event.” David would like to see two representatives from each of the football clubs in the Football League participate in future events as the charity continues to grow across the UK.
The London to Amsterdam Cycle Challenge gives football fans the opportunity to fundraise alongside their footballing heroes. This year’s ride has raised over £305,000 so far. Next year the biggest ride in football is rumoured to include both a London and northern start on the weekend of the 3-5 June 2016. To find out more visit the Prostate Cancer UK website at prostatecanceruk.org/Amsterdam.