After banking a £500 donation from the floodlight inauguration fixture with Arsenal, volunteers from charity Willow are inviting fans of the EVO-STIK League Southern Hitchin Town to help them fundraise at the Emirates Stadium.
The Willow Foundation, set up by Arsenal legend Bob Wilson, OBE, to provide special days out for seriously ill young adults aged 16 to 40, are looking for supporters to boost their bucket collections teams at the annual Arsenal Foundation Charity Match Day on Saturday 10 December when the Gunners host Stoke City.
Hannah Gray, the charity’s head of community fundraising and volunteering, said: “As ever, we are in need of a large team of volunteers to help with the bucket collections from approximately 12.30pm until 3.30pm.
“It’s a great event and we’d really love your support, and that of friends and family if they are free, so please let us know as soon as possible if you are free to help out.”
The appeal comes after a crowd of 1,160 at Top Field saw Hitchin draw 1-1 with an Arsenal XI on Thursday 10 November, the Gunners sending a side to the Canaries for the second time in their history to mark the turning on of a set of new floodlights.
The 67-year-old right-back wasn’t the only Arsenal legend at the fixture to celebrate the new Football Foundation-funded facilities. Brian Talbot and Ian Allison, currently managing St Albans City, were among a host of ex-Gunners among the bumper crowd along with four players from the Hitchin side who turned out back in 1962 – Charlie Turner, Terry Waldock, Tommy Everitt and Peter Hammond. Family members representing other Hitchin players from the first meeting who couldn’t make it or have since passed away were also represented.
Top Field also welcomed back two of the Gunners from their first meeting – David Court – who played 175 matches and scored 15 goals in his eight year Highbury career – and Billy McCullough, who played 268 games for the North London giants. The late Geordie Armstrong was represented by his wife Marj and daughter Jill.
The host of ex-Hitchin players who attended were led by Tony Martin, Steve Gear, Gerry Sylvester, Nigel Hann and Peter Clarke as well as ex-manager Peter Lawrence. A number of other top names from the game who turned out included ex-Luton stars Mick Harford, Kingsley Black, Wayne Turner, Gary Doherty and ex-West Ham player Jack Collinson, now a coach at Peterborough.
Hitchin Town secretary Roy Izzard had nothing but praise for Rice, Talbot and Arsenal and the club’s fans for their generosity on the night.
He said: “Brian was really friendly and approachable while I could only describe Pat as the perfect ambassador for Arsenal. Nothing was too much trouble for Pat who happily posed for photos and mingled with our guests and sponsors.
“By the time I left for home I felt that Hitchin Town had done themselves really proud and I felt we had only increased our profile. We had garnered a huge amount of positive publicity, proved again we could host high profile games and shown once again that we are a true community club.”
The EVO-STIK League Southern Premier Division club’s floodlight project was made possible thanks to a £27,924 match-funding grant from the Premier League via the Football Stadia Improvement Fund, the largest funders of Non-League football in the country.