Cards make ‘lovely gesture’ to ensure George’s first game is one to remember

MADE MY DAY – Young Grimsby fan George, who is autistic, was able to enjoy his first taste of football thanks to the efforts of Rosemary Johnson and Woking Football Club

WOKING Football Club have won heartfelt thanks from the father of an autistic boy who was helped to attend his first game there.

Exiled Grimsby fan Mark James, now living in Maidenhead, had long had his eye on his team’s visit to the Laithwaite Community Stadium for his three-year-old son George’s first match, but was concerned whether the tickets were for standing or seating.

Within minutes of emailing the club to find out, Mark received a call from Woking chairman Rosemary Johnson to work out how the club could help.

“Then half-way through the conversation she stopped and said ‘No, tell you what, let me see if I can put you in the directors’ box’,” Mark said. “Rosemary said we could sit with the Grimsby directors and hoped George would have an amazing first-game experience.

“What are the odds of that happening? A lovely gesture. I think it speaks volumes about the care and understanding that people like Rosemary and Woking place on all supporters having the ability to come and watch their team play and create an inclusive environment for all.

“If Woking are the measure of where football clubs need to be for people with special needs, then I am truly optimistic for the future as a football fan and as a parent.”

Rosemary said: “I knew that the seats at the club are not designated, and the likelihood was that the Grimsby end could be very crowded.

“I have a lot of personal experience of autism – I used to chair a special needs group, my middle son is a specialist autistic teacher, and my youngest son is disabled – so I felt that Mark’s son could be overwhelmed. And I couldn’t guarantee seats.

Woking FC Chairman Rosemary Johnson arranged for George to watch his first game from the directors box

“My idea was to invite them as guests and put them behind the Grimsby directors so that he was part of the Grimsby fanbase. The Grimsby directors were fantastic, by the way. What was achieved was a great day for all.

“Woking has always prided itself on being a community club – we have won the National League community club of the year three times,” she said. “With a ground that is coming up to 100 years old we recognise the limitations of our facilities for fans with a disability, but the club has an ethos that says if we can do it, we will.”

Mark added: “I know George has been very lucky here but these acts of kindness can go largely  unnoticed, so I want to celebrate the generosity and thoughtfulness of Rosemary, Woking and Andrew Pettit, from Grimsby, who presented George with a club shirt on behalf of the directors.

“I think if George could ever get another slice of the raspberry cake he demolished in the hospitality section at half-time, I’m sure he’d love to go back to Woking! And Grimsby winning with a late goal helped as well.

“George is non verbal, he can’t speak, but if his smile and reaction to the whole day is anything to go by, then Woking truly do put the community at the heart of everything they do.

“We can all make a difference, I know Woking did. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.”

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