I almost collapsed with excitement.
Browsing Barnet’s programme on Saturday, my eyes stumbled across the manager’s kind offer for his players to make visits to birthday parties, schools and, to my delight, hospitals! Having been admitted to hospital myself 4 days previously, the offer was beyond a miraculous coincidence. Without hesitation, my mum immediately composed an email, explaining the situation and listing a few of my favourite players. Their speedy reply arrived on Bank Holiday Monday-only keeping us waiting for a matter of hours. It certainly didn’t disappoint: Jamie Stephens, Barnet’s No. 1 (literally) was coming to see me!
I would like to consider myself a true Barnet fan. The fact I cannot kick a football to save my life only resonates my dedication to the team, in my opinion. I have held a season ticket for years, accompanying them on the controversial journey from Underhill to the Hive; I have been a member of the supporters’ association since my mum went into labour (thanks Grandad); I have braved the sniggering glances when I have worn orange and black face paint to matches and dragged reluctant friends with me. Given my fan profile, excited doesn’t quite cut it. But when the day arrived, I was equally as nervous…
“What if it’s awkward?” I fretted at 8:00AM.
“What if we sit in silence?” 9:30AM
“Maybe I should get scrabble ready in case he gets bored of me…” 11:15AM
As noon passed, I made a list of 21 questions to ask so I was prepped to quiz Jamie about himself and his fellow footballers.
Before I could say Jamie Stephens, it was 1:15PM. Time to meet the infamous goalie.
Waiting for me in the reception was Jamie, my mum, and two Barnet media guys. Jamie was MUCH taller in real life. I was presented with a new Barnet scarf, with orange stripes more brightly coloured than my old one, and a pair of goalie gloves worn by Jamie himself! I was feeling incredibly lucky.
I led us all to the garden and we slumped down on the grass in the sun. Jamie chatted and chatted about his football career, education, injuries, fellow players, girlfriend, family… pretty much anything! Between himself and my mum, I could hardly get a word in! But that’s what I wanted. He was confident, warm and a truly humble person. There was no need for scrabble and no opportunity to ask my 21 questions! We ended the visit with a smiley picture in the sunshine. He signed the gloves and gave me well-wishes that seemed genuine and meaningful, not just obligatory words.
Acts of generosity like this are invaluable. Confined to hospital for a week, utterly bored and feeling a bit sorry for myself, it lifted my spirits more than I could have wished for.
A huge thank you to Barnet FC for facilitating this and to Jamie Stephens for giving up time to come and see me. I am truly grateful.