County Durham’s Tow Law Town AFC, credits Sir Bobby Robson for helping save the club during one of its darkest hours. Members have never forgotten Sir Bobby’s efforts on their behalf and have responded by raising an amazing £4,100 for the football legend’s cancer charity.
In 2001, Tow Law Town was struggling financially as the foot and mouth crisis impacted on supporter numbers and gate receipts.
Club stalwart, Charlie Donaghy, invited Sir Bobby, then Newcastle United manager, to a fundraising talk-in at the Ironworks Road ground to raise much needed funds and he immediately agreed.
It was a memorable night, repeated two years later, and the money raised helped keep Tow Law Town afloat during difficult times.
Sir Bobby enjoyed his association with the club greatly and was honoured to accept the title of Tow Law Town vice president.
Charlie Donaghy, who was recently awarded the Northern Echo’s Local Hero award for his contribution to grassroots sport, says: “I first met Sir Bobby when he officially opened The Northern League Club at Tow Law. We looked after him well that day and he promised me he’d help us if ever we needed it.
“And Sir Bobby really did help save this club. We were in terrible straits and the money raised from his talk in made a tremendous difference.
“He stayed all night. In fact, he stayed so late Lady Elsie rang up to check with his Newcastle United colleague Charlie Woods to see how the night was going. It was wonderful and I think he enjoyed it as much as we did. We’ve always been grateful for his help.”
On 10 August this year, The FA organised the Sir Bobby Robson National Football Day in celebration of the nation’s favourite game and one of English football’s most iconic figures.
It was part of The FA’s 150th anniversary celebrations and, on the day, 150 events took place across the country – providing a showcase of The FA’s work at grassroots level.
One of those 150 FA events was the first match of the new season in the Northern League Division Two at Tow Law Town and the club took the opportunity to raise money for the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation in the process.
Junior members held a halftime penalty competition and the club organised a raffle, while Charlie was sponsored more than £3,000 by grassroots sports clubs and leagues around the County for doing a sponsored walk around the pitch.
Charlie, who donated his £500 Northern Echo Local Hero prize to the Foundation, adds: “Raising this money has been a tremendous team effort by Tow Law Town and the local community. Everybody has been so generous.
“I have mobility problems so walking around the pitch was very difficult. I thought I’d try for three laps but also thought that would have me on my knees.
“I was privileged to carry the Olympic Torch last year so I wore my special tracksuit for luck and to inspire me. It must have done the job because I managed all three laps and was very proud to have done it.”
On Friday night (13 December), Lady Elsie visited Tow Law AFC to receive the cheque on behalf of the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and to thank Charlie and club members.
Speakers on the night included George Courtney, former World Cup referee, Mike Amos, Northern League chairman and George Caulkin, North East football reporter for The Times and a Patron of the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation.
More funds were raised for the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation through an auction and stand-up bingo competition – with Lady Elsie calling the numbers.
At the end of the night, Lady Elsie was pleasantly surprised when she was asked to become President of Tow Law Town AFC. She then went on to officially rename the bar at the club the Sir Bobby Robson Bar.
Lady Elsie says: “I’d like to say thank you from our hearts to Charlie and everyone at Tow Law Town for raising so much money for the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation. We’re very grateful.
“I was honoured to be offered the chance to become President of the club and it was an honour I was proud to accept.”