A fan-tastic 10 years for HUDSA

Neil Appleyard pictured with some of the football  memorabilia.
Neil Appleyard pictured with some of the football memorabilia.

A GROUP that supports disabled football fans is hosting a sportsman’s dinner as part of its 10th anniversary celebrations.

Hartlepool United Disabled Supporters’ Association (HUDSA) marks a decade of success this year.

To commemorate the occasion, HUDSA is hosting a sportsman’s dinner in which Pools’ legends Joe Allon and “Big Bad” Bob Newton will be guest speakers.

HUDSA chairman Neil Appleyard looked back on the 10 years since the organisation was first set up, using his house on the town’s Brooke estate as a meeting point.

He said: “Darran Hutchinson, who works for the local authority with people with special needs, mentioned other football clubs were setting up disabled groups and said to me at the match one day we should think about starting one up.

“About 10 people came to the first meeting at my house as volunteers and the following summer, our first member, Tony Armstrong, who is still with us, was taken on board.”

HUDSA now has more than 100 members, which Neil says is a significant proportion of Pools’ average home crowds.

Since then, HUDSA has grown and now puts on a weekly disco at The Woodcutter pub, in Kingsley Avenue, for people with learning and physical difficulties, as well as providing short breaks at HUDSA’s caravan at Primrose Valley, near Scarborough.

“We are not just a disabled supporters’ group any more,” said Neil, who is a former teacher.

“We actually support the community.

“I’m immensely proud of what we have achieved so much in a short space of time.”

He added that Pools’ rivals Darlington had even followed HUDSA’s lead and asked for tips in setting up their own disabled association.

HUDSA raised more than £16,000 for its own minibus in 2006 when members went on a seven-day sponsored walk from Victoria Park to the away game at Brentford.

They also did a two-day walk from Victoria Park to Middlesbrough’s ground, then to Darlington, Sunderland and Newcastle, raising more than £1,500 for the Motor Neurone Disease organisation.

Bob Newton, who is a HUDSA patron, played for Pools from 1977 to 1986 and Joe Allon was at the club for two spells between 1988 and 1997.

The sportsman’s dinner, which includes a steak meal and auction, will be held at the Hillcarter Hotel, in Church Street, Hartlepool, on Friday, April 8, from 7pm.

Auction prizes include signed Pools, Newcastle United and Celtic shirts, a Gold Coast United shirt signed by former Pools’ player Joel Porter, a Perth Glory shirt signed by Liverpool legend Robbie Fowler, and signed Middlesbrough and Sunderland footballs.

Tickets are £20 each, or £200 for a table of 12, and they can be obtained from the hotel reception on (01429) 855800, Neil on 07747735247 or Ron Harnish on 07766545394.

People can book places with a £5 deposit.