Mental health awareness is on the rise these days, but what better way to spread it further than to engage a host of former Scottish football stars?
The Back Onside charity did just that by staging a fundraising match between their own XI and an Oriam Select.
They haven’t had to look far to start building their own team as Danny Swanson, who has played for both sides of the Edinburgh Division, and lower league legend David Cox is already working with them as as ambassador and patron respectively.
They managed to draft international experience in the form of former Celtic goalkeeper Rab Douglas and former Rangers defender Maurice Ross.
Former Aberdeen man Richie Byrne and current Jambos midfielder Jamie Walker, on loan at Bradford City, provided their past and current top pedigree.
And past and present lower league stars like Alan Cook, Gary Fraser and Davie Nicholls complemented them well.
A strong squad but Oriam’s side needed no fear as they had another former Scotland star in Stevie Crawford as well as Aidan Quinn and Ross Campbell from Montrose and Anton Dowds from Falkirk, who have all developed there by Heriot-Watt University.
University first-team head coach Bejay Koya led the Oriam team while former Scotland and Rangers star Willie Henderson was in charge of Back Onside.
The game itself did not disappoint, with a five-goal thriller coming off a last-minute winner from Chris Donnelly, also of Heriot-Watt.
So plenty of entertainment is being offered to fans in return for their £5 ticket price, all to support the charity in its crucial mental health work.
Before the game, all the stars promised it would be competitive and that was definitely it.
Back Onside would have been set up as most people’s favorites and they certainly did a lot of the early games.
It took around 40 minutes for the first goal, but the source wasn’t surprised when Walker sent a delicious chip into the top corner.
Oriam keeper Kieran Kennedy, who works at the National Performance Center, had been in inspired form and made a number of stunning saves to keep the scores level but was helpless with that one.
But if they thought they were going into the break, they would be quickly stunned when a quick counter from Oriam made it 1-1.
Donnelly fed Dowds down the right side and he showed all the predatory instincts he has shown this season in the Championship and League One.
The lead was restored twelve minutes after the break after a mix-up with the keeper led Quinn to head for his own goal.
The game opened up and wobbled from start to finish, with Cox taking plenty of the polls for the charity team and Campbell in the forefront for the opposition.
And the score was reversed with two late goals.
Oriam’s bench was delighted when Isaac Mackie, also of Heriot-Watt, scored on the second attempt of Campbell’s pass.
But the celebrations were to escalate upon death, when Donnelly was confronted by the formidable presence of Douglas, but kept his composure to overtake him.
The top fell with a bang amid jubilant scenes in the corner, as the referee showed his charitable side by keeping his cards in his pocket!
All had a great day as the event allowed people to escape the pressures and hassles of life for 90 minutes.
And that’s what it’s all about.
They are strong advocates of the benefits of sport for people’s mental health and well-being, and that’s what they offer through their workshops and programs.
Their boss Cox has spoken openly in the past about his own struggles and has been helped by Back Onside himself
He had this to say: “The work they do is second to none in helping many people with mental health issues.
“Over the years they have taken so many phone calls and helped so many people in dark places, myself included.
“It’s important to raise awareness and raise as much money as possible to allow Back Onside to continue doing what they do.
“Over the past two years with the lockdown, it’s had a negative impact on a lot of people’s mental health.
“So we need to keep pushing these things forward and raising as much money as we can, but also creating a space where people can feel safe and know they’re not alone.”
If you are affected by mental health issues, please call the Samaritans on (free) 116123.
Back Onside is available on 07528243100, [email protected], on Twitter at @BackOnside or https://www.facebook.com/backonside
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