Hartson speaks from heart at Norwich church
Welsh striker John Hartson and celebrity impressionist Mike Maguire entertained a crowd at King's Church in Norwich on October 2 and raised over £3,000 for a local and overseas projects. Helen Baldry reports
Money raised from the evening will go to three charities linked with King's Church: Life Ministries Christian Centre in Uganda, homeless people in Norwich and famine relief in Kenya.
Paul Wilson was the main organiser of the event, supported by Dave Pull and Brian Fawcett. Paul estimates just over £3,000 was raised on the night. The evening involved a delicious three course meal, with 'reverse' bingo games between courses and an auction of prizes, including a BMW for the day and a signed Norwich City shirt. Compere for the evening was James Wilson, manager of King's football team.
The voices of impressionist Mike Maguire included Sir Terry Wogan, Sir Trevor Brooking, Jim Bowen, Mick McCarthy, Sir Alex Ferguson, Frank Bruno and Alan Hansen - and involved a bit of audience participation.
Brian Fawcett, who works for Life Ministries Christian Centre in Kampala said, "We had almost 40 volunteers serving ensuring a fantastic meal and an enjoyable evening. This is the first time King’s has run such an event and we were pleased with the way everything came together. We have received many complimentary remarks from both the sponsors and other guests."
After dinner, John Hartson spoke of his experience playing for Arsenal, Celtic, West Ham, West Brom and a brief spell with Norwich City - and the 51 caps from playing for Wales. He was proud of the incredible 50 goals he scored in 53 games. He spoke of the characters in football at the time - the compulsive gamblers, drug abusers and the alcoholics.
He spoke about the pressure of the footballing world and the money involved. His account was punctuated with anecdotes about the larger-than-life personalities he encountered - Ryan Giggs, Craig Bellamy, Paul Merson, and Vinnie Jones - and he clearly revelled in the drama of football, the adoration of the fans and the expectation to achieve.
John talked about his traumatic divorce, "I felt my heart had been ripped out and stamped on. A divorce is one of the most awful things that can happen to a family." He went on speak of his diagnosis of testicular cancer that spread to his lungs and brain - and of his subsequent recovery.
"I feel protected and blessed that I am here. It's totally changed my outlook and perception...today it's about the simple things. I've had the Bentleys and the big mansions. It don't mean a jot."
Pictured top: John Hartson and above, Mike Maguire