Wolves fan Mark Feehan (or “van Feehan” to his sons who changed all the shirt names when they played together in 2019!) sat down with Football Aid to share his experiences from the events so far, and talk us through his ‘wonder goal’ at The City Ground in 2015.
Let’s begin …
Firstly, just to give the readers some background on your “football” career, can you tell us a bit about yourself and an overview of the clubs you have played for?
"Obviously, like everyone else I played a lot of football when younger, but after a stint in Canada in the mid 80’s, came back an Ice Hockey player, which took over most of my sporting life for around 18 years, just playing the odd works, ‘stand in’ and 5 aside games. Finding out about Football Aid in a Wolves matchday programme in 2004, I signed up for the opportunity to play at Molineux where I had supported Wolves since the age of 13, travelling from London for every home, and most away games. After a couple of years of playing Football Aid games at Molineux, in a passing conversation with the Football Aid team I was asked if I would be interested in playing at Roots Hall, home of Southend United FC at short notice. I enjoy meeting new players and the thought of playing at another ground, then, basically got me hooked. Since then, I have played at just about every ground Football Aid have managed an event, with very few exceptions."
Can you tell us which footballers you loved to watch when you were growing up? Also, are there any players in the modern game that you particularly like to watch?
"So, so many I loved to watch, for the Wolves it was King John Richards, but I am a genuine football supporter as well and have travelled to every English league ground, many non-league, and a fair few foreign, even Scotland! So there were many other players who I admired, a fair few who I have even been lucky enough to meet at Football Aid events. Being a defender, lots of the players I admired the most were defenders, my real hero was the late great Emlyn Hughes, old Crazy Horse, and to see him end his playing career at the Mol was something really special for me. To finish my personal admiration thoughts, I suppose I better add a keeper and midfielder, so plumping for Shilts in goal and Andres Iniesta, no explanations required!"
Moving on to your experiences with Football Aid, you have played in 79 matches and rank third in the all-time hall of fame for appearances. As a player you have travelled the length and breadth of the UK to participate in the Football Aid matches. How did you first hear about Football Aid and what are your early memories?
"I mentioned finding out about Football Aid in a Wolves programme earlier, but I enjoyed going ‘behind the scenes’ at the different grounds, and, as they say, the rest is history! For me, one of the biggest unsung benefits of playing at other venues is the opportunity to meet new players and officials from that manor, whom some, you make lasting friendships with, meeting up with some of these fellow players when I have visited their grounds for league and cup games or even when they are visiting Molineux, and some on return visits to Football Aid events. A real bonus from these games! My Christmas card list has grown over the years whilst playing Football Aid."
What are your favourite Football Aid moment(s) and highlights so far?
"Probably my favourite has been because of an emotional attachment. Unfortunately my Dad passed away in the early 90’s at an early age and we managed to spread his ashes, during a U2 concert (long story) at the old Cardiff Arms Park, rebuilt since then into the Principality (Millennium) Stadium. It was always an emotional visit back there for a sporting event in general, but Football Aid arranging a Wales game at the stadium gave me the unique opportunity to go to the spot we actually scattered his ashes, symbolic as they was probably shipped out during the rebuild, but meant so much to me. The moment captured for me by our resident photographer Matt Nuttall, that photo is framed proudly in my house."
What is the best stadium you have played at?
"Molineux, I’m allowed to be biased right? Again. Others all had different attributes that make it memorable, but for sheer history, and playing surface it has to be Villa Park. I’ve loved the games at Sheffield United and Middlesbrough, for the history at Bramall Lane and the playing surface at Boro, and remember being given a guided tour before the game way back many moons ago in a game at Fratton Park, Portsmouth."
Prior to the game at The City Ground in 2015, you had played in over 40 Football Aid matches and you had been very unlucky to not register a goal. When you stepped up to strike the ball at the home of Nottingham Forest FC, can you explain what was going through your head, and the emotions afterwards?
"Not quite true, was in fact my second goal, the first at Reading a few years back, reported by Football Aid as a ‘Clean left foot volley’, (cue a rustling sound here as the Football Aid team frantically scan through the match report). What actually happened was I was at the far post for a corner, keeper, centre half and centre forward went up for the cross, totally missed it and I didn’t even see it, but the ball came from nowhere, hit me on the shin and rolled in! It was my left shin though! The Forest goal was much more memorable as it was one of those rare occasions I now go over the half way line, well, it’s a long way back at my age, may have to call an Uber next year if I go up for a corner. The original thought was to try to chip it into our forwards, when the free kick was played short to me, but I was being closed down so just hit it! Been unlucky a few times since as well, think I have hit the crossbar on four occasions in the last two seasons!"
You are highly respected within the Football Aid network, and you are always a popular teammate to have in the changing room, most notably for your post-match team selfies on social media. Can you tell the readers who is the best Legend/Ex Professional you have played alongside, and/or been Managed by, and why?
"Thank you, Pat Nevin at Hampden was a fantastic pro to play with, Tony Currie, a real legend managing my side three times at Sheffield United, you can tell he has Blades in his heart. But, again, being slightly biased but Jody Craddock at Wolves on several occasions has been absolutely fantastic to play with and against, another of the players I have admired in his pro career and now as an established artist, look him up, his artwork is outstanding."
Do you have any pre-match superstitions/rituals that you like to do before playing in a match?
"Depends who I’m travelling with, Terry Rickeard, KFC, Jason Guy, Chinese and Andy Harland, any food going! I have a habit of being the last out the tunnel as well, not so much of a superstition but always like to shake hands with my team mates as they leave the dressing room to wish them Good Luck and tell them to enjoy, plus I’m just a lot slower than everyone else!"
On Thursday 9th May 2019 at Molineux, you played in your 75th Football Aid match. As a Wolves fan, how did it feel to reach this milestone at the home of your beloved club?
"That evening was just that extra bit special all round. Playing alongside my son Joe, also a Wolves season ticket holder was special, a lot of friends and acquaintances I’d made throughout the Football Aid and Wolves years were there, especially nice to see Niccolo Minuto from Turin there again, who I had made friends with at a previous Wolves Football Aid game, kept in touch with, and in fact had the pleasure of his company again just this past September when Wolves played Torino in the Europa League. I have always had a season ticket in the North Bank at the Mol, except for when the stand was derelict of course, so it was a not only a surprise when I was told by my team mates to take that late penalty at that end of the ground, but even more surprised when it went in! To be presented with a 75 Wolves shirt after the game rounded off the perfect night for me."
Apart from the games at Molineux, are there any other events in particular you look out for at the launch of the new Football Aid season in September?
"Always on the lookout for new venues, jumped on the Walsall FC game as soon as it was announced recently, but with my two sons, Jack and Joe now involved with Football Aid, always look for a venue I have really enjoyed to try to share the experience with them. Would love to see a few of the overseas games back again, as these are that extra bit special."
Lastly, do you have any advice / recommendations for any supporters that are thinking about taking part in a Football Aid event?
"Don’t think about registering for it, do it! When you have plumped for an event, take your time, take it all in, from the pre match amble through the dressing room, the game, and post-match. Get to know the fellow players around you, enjoy the comradery with your team and the opposition, and respect the officials and physios, they are there through the goodness of their hearts to help and are always fantastic, don’t kill yourself, just about every pitch will be bigger than anything you may have played on previously, but above all ENJOY!"
"Have to end by paying tribute to the Football Aid team themselves, who work tirelessly for the charity and to make the Football Aid experience so memorable. Thanks team, see you all again very soon."