Dr Alan Birchenall MBE (Freeman of the City of Leicester) was always that guy who entertained the crowd at half time in Leicester City games and ran around the pitch for 90 minutes on the last home game of the season for charity. I’d take some coins from my Dad’s burger van change and throw them into a bucket for that year’s nominated charity. Little did I know what ‘The Birch’ really does.
Most of the work of The Foxes’ ambassador carries out goes unnoticed and unpublicised for various reasons but I’m in awe of his work within the community.
I was contacted by a Leicester fan some time ago who’s friend was terminally ill. A young man who’s family’s’ life had been thrown upside down with the news he had just weeks before the tumour in his brain ended his life. I was asked whether there was anything I could do to get someone from the club to go and visit him in hospital.
I called Birch who came into his own. The happy-go-lucky chap we hear on the radio and on the pitch suddenly clicked into a different gear, one of sympathy and his caring nature was reassuring. He asked when I was free to go to the hospital and we met up on the ward.
The nurse briefed us as to the condition of this massive Leicester City fan, it wasn’t good, the morphine levels were such that he was barely conscious but Birch was incredible and an inspiration to me. He didn’t dwell on any negatives, he was bubbly and had some great humour for everyone to try and keep the atmosphere positive. He makes these hospital visits all the time and is a credit to Leicester City Football Club as well as himself of course.
As I write this in December he’s already been to approximately 20 funerals for City fans this season………. numerous school visits and more community events than I care to remember.
We’re lucky to have such an incredible ambassador here in Leicester; not many have raised over £1m for charity and he’s far from finished yet.
The gap between footballers and fans seems to be growing but some of the old guard will still drink in the same watering holes as you, cheer the lads on like you and would be at your bedside at the drop of a hat if you were in trouble.
There’s plenty of life left in the Old Fox yet don’t you worry about that but sometimes it’s good to just stop and acknowledge the quality work individuals do for the love of the club.
He’s inspired me.