We’ve all thought about doing the 92 league grounds at one time or another in our lives, but few achieve it. Some perhaps manage a lot of the 92 league grounds over the course of decades following their club. Some may have done it for a bet, some have worked to get into the football media industry so have worked at all 92 that way.
Then there are the few people with the drive, determination and organisation, not to mention the funds through either sponsorship or their own hard earned savings, that do it for charity. John Keegan is the latter.
I first met John at his favourite Italian in Wokingham, Rosini’s. We were both in a party of about 15, pretty much taking over this fairly small but abundantly friendly restaurant. There was me, my girlfriend Katie, my step daughter Ellie, my twins Megan & Hannah, Katie’s brother Daniel, their mum Tina, his now-wife Sam (Johns daughter), their beautiful/crazy/funny daughter Lily (who was a baby at the time), and Johns other Daughters Lindsay & Siobhan, with their partners Jamie & Nathan. John was the last to arrive and greeted me with his infectious smile as soon as Sam introduced me. This was the first time I’d taken my twin girls out to dinner or even meet everyone and John was theirs and Ellie’s (as he had been for Ellie many times before) entertainment for the night, as he instructed the accommodating waiters as if they were his staff, to bring out what ever dinners their fussy pallets wanted. Nothing was too much trouble for John or the staff. I’ve since been back more than I’ve been anywhere else and still can’t get away from ordering the steak, I really must try something else next time I’m there.
One of the times I was there with Katie, none other than John Madejski walks in. Apparently he orders the same thing every time and one bottle of wine, leaving minimal tip and back out the door with no fuss. I obviously wanted a photo but as its quite a quiet, respectful place I didn’t want to interrupt Mr Reading’s dinner. So I had the brainwave to take a photo from my seat, on my camera phone whilst I was ‘on the phone’. However this back fired as the flash was on and as I took the picture, the head waiter stood between us, facing me, only to be blinded by my flash.
I gave up after that.
John is an ex-referee and easily the best one I’ve met (and not only because he’s never reffed me). We’ve concluded that he has likely reffed my dad when he used to play for British Gas or Signcraft, but can’t be sure. He’s told me many stories of his time reffing in the south east of England and everyone has had me in stitches, they’re the sort of stories I miss hearing my dad telling, usually ending in ‘all had a drink at the end’.
He’s sent of Frank Sinclair when he was playing for Chelsea in the Middlesex Senior Cup and walked into the home bar after allowing the opposition a blatant back pass from a defender shinning back to his keeper, that would’ve provided the home team the chance to win the game in the last minute. Despite being strongly advised by the chairman not to bother, he walked straight in after the game, immediately got plenty of stares and the expected frosty reception, then proceeded to stand on a chair, get everyone’s attention and state the exact FA ruling, ‘’Section 12 of the rules states that the ball must be played with the foot, not the knee, thigh, or shin, back to the keeper for it to be deemed a back pass”. The first noise after John had stopped his announcement was ‘get that man a drink’. This is the character of the man.
John’s story, which is only right to be in his words, not mine, is below so you can read there the whys of this charity attempt. I picked up John’s progress a month or so into his progress. He’s not one to talk for ages about doing something and then it never happening. The first I heard of the 100 ground trip he was already well under way. I joined him for the first of what I hope will be many at Aldershot’s home tie vs. fellow strugglers Torquay.
Aldershot won 1.0 and that’s when I found out it was John’s 7th game and 7th win for the home side. I loved being back on the terraces after growing up on the old Shed steps at Stamford Bridge, despite being freezing on the cold February evening!
When possible John has very kindly agreed to keep us at Sweet FA updated with his progress and we in turn will be trying to analyse some of the great data he provides us with. I’m hoping to be able to provide a great insight to match prices throughout all 4 divisions and provide away fans an insight into grounds they are about to visit but never been before, or even grounds fans would like to visit but need a guide or commentary from someone that’s been to them all.
I’m insanely jealous of John already for getting to visit all 92 grounds, not to mention Bayern Munich, Benfica and others around Europe. Considering the expense of this trip is 100% being covered by John, with every single penny of sponsorship going to the hospital, anyone reading this and subsequent updates should donate, even if it’s just a pound…every little really does make a difference.
My Story – John Keegan
Thanks for taking the time to visit my JustGiving page.
In early 2012, I was diagnosed with Non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma; it’s a cancer of the immune system that’s carried within the victim’s blood. Although the success rate is good, mine was complicated as it was also found in my spinal fluid!
Over the next eight months I underwent surgery, intense courses of chemotherapy and preventative radiotherapy. Towards the end of the year, I was given the fantastic news that I was in 100% remission: so although the war isn’t over – that takes five years – I had won a significant battle.
I managed this with a certain amount of self-determination, but much more importantly, through the support, love and prayers of friends and family – who were all incredible, particularly my three beautiful daughters – and the wonderful skills, professionalism and warmth of all the staff at the Eden Cancer Ward & Unit at Wexham Park Hospital.
So how do you thank people for saving your life? It’s impossible!! So, I thought I would undertake a labour of love and raise some well needed funds for my friends at the Eden Ward & Unit.
My intention is to attend 100 football matches, in alphabetical order – to include all of the 92 English football clubs, plus Shamrock Rovers in Ireland, Celtic in Scotland, PSG in France, Ajax in The Netherlands, Bayern Munich in Germany, Benfica in Portugal, Real Madrid in Spain and Torino in Italy – hence the 100 challenge. I’ve estimated that I will travel almost 29,000 miles in achieving my goal.
Once I have worked out the technology, I will attach some photos of my three daughters and two granddaughters, so you can see where I received the inspiration to beat this horrible disease. At the time of my diagnosis, my eldest daughter had her wedding planned for August (which we made) and my second daughter had just found out that she was pregnant and she delivered my second amazing granddaughter on Christmas Eve – a perfect end to an imperfect year – but we made it and I want to help others do the same!
Donating through JustGiving is simple, fast and totally secure. Your details are safe with JustGiving – they’ll never sell them on or send unwanted emails. Once you donate, they’ll send your money directly to the charity and make sure Gift Aid is reclaimed on every eligible donation by a UK taxpayer. So it’s the most efficient way to donate – I raise more, whilst saving time and cutting costs for the charity.
So please dig deep and donate now.
About John’s chosen Charity
Heatherwood And Wexham Park Hospitals Trust General Fund
Charity Registration No. 1050362
The charity helps fund medical equipment throughout the trust, and enhances the level of care by financing many courses and education days. It helps improve both patient and staff environments and holds many different funds reflecting the sheer size of the trust.