Colin Murray says he needed little persuasion to offer his help when he heard about Chester FC ’s financial difficulties.
Blues fans were faced with the very real prospect of losing their football club for the second time in eight years when it was revealed that the club required £50,000 to keep them going in the short term .
Since the full extent of Chester’s woes were revealed at City Fans United meeting last month, Blues fans and the football community have rallied behind the cause and over £45,000 has been raised.
And BBC broadcaster Murray, who first became involved with the club when they reformed from the ashes of Chester City in 2010, was on the phone as soon as he heard.
After a conversation with Blues director Jeff Banks the pair decided on a fundraising match, with a Chester FC select side to take on a team of ‘all-stars’.
Former England and Liverpool striker Michael Owen was first to sign up and having had just 18 days to get everything in place for Thursday’s game at the Swansway Chester Stadium, Murray is delighted with how things have gone.
“As soon as I heard about what was going on at Chester I gave Jeff a call to find out what had gone on and how I might be able to help,” Murray told the Chronicle.
“You have to find out what the situation is before you get involved. I didn’t want to just put my hand in my pocket and say ‘here you go’, you need to go beyond that.
“Michael (Owen) rang me shortly after and asked how we might be able to do something as he wanted to help out. We thought about a Q&A with me and him but then we thought ‘who wants to see that?’, so we settled on the idea of a fundraising game.
“Usually you get about four months to plan these things but we had 18 days! You have to get the council, the police and safety side of things all sorted before you can even start ringing round people for a game. But people pulled together and we have got it done.”
Murray, whose ‘all-star’ team will be managed by ex-Chester City boss Kevin Ratcliffe, has already got the likes of Owen, Danny Higginbotham, Keith Gillespie and Neil Mellor on board.
And with Banks having pieced together a Chester side including Paul Carden, Shaun Reid and Chris Simm, it promises to be a competitive affair.
But Murray says he isn’t finished yet, although he has been stymied in his bid to sign up some other stars.
“There have been a lot of people who wanted to help and be a part of it but who haven’t been able to because of work or being away with the family,” said Murray.
“John Barnes wanted to do it but he’s away, the same for Pat Nevin, Jamie Carragher, Dennis Wise and Robbie Savage. How good would it have been to get Robbie Savage down to Chester for comedy value?!
“But people still want to help. Dennis Wise has even donated some Chelsea tickets for a raffle prize as he wanted to show some support.
“And Tony Bellew is a good friend of mine and really wanted to play. But it turns out that he isn’t allowed to because of of the boxing and having a fight coming up against David Haye.
“I’m hopeful that I can get a few more people confirmed and signed up and I’ve got a couple of defenders who I need to add.
“The Chester lot are talking like they have already won this, like it is a foregone conclusion. Wait and see, we’re all in it to win it and the WhatsApp group we’re all apart of is now all about how we can get one over them.
“There is a lot of talk on Twitter and not many people fancy us. I’ve had a look at their team, though, and not one of them has played for Real Madrid, so I’m not sure if I would be that confident if I was them!
“Going forward we are quality. Owen up front and the pace of Mellor and Paddy McCourt on the flanks. They should be worried, although we have pretty much Danny Higginbotham on his own at the back holding things together along with me and Justin Madders the MP. But we’ll be ready.
“It’s going to be competitive and it’s going to be two teams who want to win the game. I think that’s what fans want to see as well, they want to be entertained and that is what we are aiming to do.”
Murray is hopeful that they will manage to attract a crowd of at least 1,500.
But with ticket sales ahead of what was expected and the game being pay on the gate, Murray is keeping his fingers crossed that they may get even more through the turnstiles to help aid the Blues’ effort.
“We wanted to make it affordable, that’s why the tickets are £5 and £10, and we wanted to provide entertainment and bring as many people down here as we could,” said Murray.
“I know that the club is close to raising the £50,000 they need in the short term but the more we can raise the more we can help add to the fund and stabilise the club and help it secure a more long term future.
“I’m not a Chester fan in the traditional sense, I’m a Liverpool fan, but Chester is a football club that I have a close affinity for and one that I have great deal of affection for.
“There was over 1,000 there for a youth team game the other week and the club raised over £12,000. That shows you how much people care. Hopefully we will get another great turnout.
“It has been a long time for some Chester fans since they have been able to walk down to the ground and enjoy that nervous excitement about a football match. That’s something that needs to come back.
“If we can get people coming down to the ground on Thursday with smiles on their faces and looking forward to a game then we have done something right.
“Michael Owen’s dad Terry (who made over 170 Football League appearances for Chester in the 1970s) will be down and the two will be kicking off the game together. That will be a really nice moment. We had hoped to get Neil Mellor’s dad (Ian Mellor, who played for the Blues in the 1970s), as he also played for Chester. He’s away at the moment but that would have been brilliant, too.
“Hopefully we’ll raise a nice amount of cash in the process. But it’s going to be an enjoyable evening and hopefully one that proves a big success.”