This is a very special edition of Salut! Sunderland’s Week, timed to go a day early and devoted to the story of Old Time SAFC and the mighty hearts of so many of the people who follow football …
Medical science and the will to live may not have had their last word on the man whose moving story brought tears to the eyes of grown men, some of them probably quite tough grown men, this week.
We can all hope that Old Time SAFC who described himself at the Ready To Go forums as preparing for his last match at the Stadium of Light – the sub-text, supported by other postings, being that he is terminally ill – confounds own prognosis and gathers strength from the groundswell of emotion (not to mention the efforts of doctors) his words inspired.
He evidently feels this is not likely. But despite his serious condition, he plans to be present on Sunday for the last game of the season, at home to Manchester United.
With great dignity he told us about his thoughts here: http://www.readytogo.net/smb/showthread.php?t=698314#ixzz1uFaJZF7j
And guess what then happened: at my last count, the number of visits to the thread had soared well above 60,000 and, since I am writing this on Thursday afternoon, will have risen higher by the time you read it. Sunderland supporters have added their own, often very touching messages of sympathy and encouragement; opposing supporters, Mags included, have done likewise.
Someone got in touch with the club which, to its credit (SAFC is always very good in such circumstances) asked for details so it could come up with a signed photo of MON and the team. Sky asked A Love Supreme if anyone would ask him whether he felt up for an interview.
And that was not all. Present and past Sunderland players – David Meyler and Darren Ward spring to mind – retweeted mention of the RTG thread to their large numbers of followers.
Monsieur Salut suggested on these pages that a simple chant – One Old Timer, There’s Only On Old Timer, followed by prolonged applause – would do the man proud at the big match. Someone else suggested starting it at the 51st minute since Old Time SAFC gives 51 as his age.
I cheekily asked Stephen Fry whether he would retweet a message from me, since he has 4 million+ followers, in return for my promised support for a charity he was plugging on Twitter. Once I had stumped up £15, I tweeted him again to say I would double it if he granted my modest request. Nothing yet (a state of affairs that is understandable and may, of course, change; be assured it will be noted here if it does) but I am happy to pass on details of the charity – Breathe On, which supports children who owe their lives to mechanical breathing or long-term ventiliation (LTV) – in case others also wish to chip in online: http://www.breatheon.org.uk/index.php/fundraising-sector.
It would be wonderful if Old Time SAFC saw a rousing win tomorrow. It would be magical if he heard thousands, maybe United fans too, chanting his Ready to Go username as I have suggested. And it would be best of all if he gained the strength from all this to live a little longer.
He doesn’t want a fuss made, said someone who knows him. Well I know of 60,000+ pairs of eyes whose owners would dearly wish for the opposite – and for the fuss to have some beneficial effect.