Guards help boost charity funds

Blyth Spartans ground hosted a memorial football match for two local Coldstream Guards killed in Afghanistan. With a guest appearance by the Regimental Corps of Drums of the Coldstream
Blyth Spartans ground hosted a memorial football match for two local Coldstream Guards killed in Afghanistan. With a guest appearance by the Regimental Corps of Drums of the Coldstream

TWO charity football matches played in memory of two Coldstream Guards killed in action in Afghanistan last year raised over £600 for the Army Benevolent Fund (ABF) - The Soldiers Charity.

The matches kicked off at Croft Park, Blyth, home of Blyth Spartans, last weekend as did the entertainment and fun, with the Coldstream Corps of Drums adding a striking musical and colourful addition to the day.

The first match was in memory of Guardsman Michael Sweeney - Michael Sweeney from 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards who was killed in Afghanistan on April 1, 2010, following an explosion in the Babaji district of central Helmand province.

A local team of Michael’s friends, playing under the title of the Blyth Misfits, facing the team from the Coldstream Guards. The final score was 2-1 for the local lads.

Then after lunch the second match, in memory of Sergeant John Amer, involved a Sunderland Sun Alliance team, which included John’s brother Paul, and a Liverpool Sun Alliance team.

Once again the local team were victorious with the score being 4 – 3. All teams expressed delight in both the venue and the tremendously cheerful and supportive crowd.

Acting Sgt John Amer, from the 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards, was killed in Afghanistan on November 30, 2009, saving the life of one of his men.

The 30-year-old was fatally wounded as he went to help a colleague who had been wounded in another explosion moments earlier, in the Babaji area of central Helmand province.

Trophies and medals were presented by Jonathan Miles of BBC Radio Newcastle.

Entry to the ground was free, with a suggested donation of £2 to the charity, and over 200 hundred people attended.

Blyth Spartans donated a signed football and additional facilities were provided by enthusiastic volunteers from a local territorial army unit, who provided a hot dog and refreshments stand, paintball range and tombola.

A delighted Eric Ingram, North East Chairman of The Soldiers’ Charity said; “This has been a wonderful day and I would like to pay tribute to the families of the late Michael Sweeney and John Amer.

“Despite their terrible losses, each family has worked tirelessly to raise funds to enable us to help soldiers and their families who have suffered as a result of serving their country.

“It is very humbling to work with them and I will do all that I can to help keep memories of Michel and John alive.

“I must also give a big thank you to the Spartans’ chairman and Northumberland County Council for allowing us to use their grounds, and, of course, thank the public who have, once again, supported both us and the families.

“We are indebted to everyone who continues to help, The Soldiers’ Charity, to support those who need our help.”

The Soldiers’ Charity is currently working with the MOD and other service charities to run four Personnel Recovery Centres (PRC), one of these will be in Catterick Garrison to look after soldiers from the north east.

The centre will have space for 40 day and 20 live in patients, with two family suites for those who will be there long term.

The centres will take wounded, injured and sick soldiers and help rehabilitate and retrain them prior to discharge.

As the needs of every soldier will differ, each will have an Individual Recovery Programme (IRP) tailored to meet his, or her needs - the average cost of each programme is around £12,000 a year .

No one will be discharged from the Army until they are confident that they are ready to face life as a civilian, and to this end the Army is working with the business sector and local councils to find them employment and homes.