As a former Police Officer, I have had many strange and weird things to deal with during my 10-year career. However, last week in recruitment has been one of the most bizarre weeks in my whole life.
So, let me explain to you how I managed to arrange a footballing legend from Aston Villa to visit my Mom on her 85thbirthday, when all I had to do was recruit a Security Professional.
I was asked by a work colleague to assist with a role that was proving difficult to locate suitable candidates for. It was a role that is generally outside of our core business sector, but one that I felt I could assist with due to my Police background and the fact I had looked at a similar role earlier in the year for a different organisation.
I began my search for the position and spoke with some candidates. My brief was to locate someone with a military background, who had dealt with security as part of their role. I managed to identify one candidate who I thought had the correct experience and began a conversation. It was not long into the conversation that I felt I had located the ideal person. As we chatted, I sent him a connection on LinkedIn (other social media platforms are also available) and I questioned him about his other interests and hobbies. It transpires that my candidate had been a football talent scout for many years and we chatted about our footballing memories from the 1970’s through to the present day.
My parents are avid Villa fans and have been for much of their life. We were season ticket holders as a family and would travel from Worcestershire to Villa Park and followed them to numerous away games. When my sister and I left home, my parents continued as season ticket holders at Villa Park all the way up to 2011. Sadly, both my parents were unable to attend games due to ill health so became just “armchair fans”. I relayed their love of Aston Villa to my candidate and he said he had a number of connections within football.
As the recruitment process progressed, on this occasion very favourably, I spoke again with the candidate and asked if he knew Villa legend Brian Little? He said he did I thought that if I was able to contact Brian in some way, he could maybe send a video message to my mom on her birthday.
Low and behold, on the morning of the candidate’s interview, a text message came through with a mobile number and the name “Brian Little” next to it. In this role I speak to people of all levels and now it was time to speak to someone quite famous.
Keith “Hi, is that Brian?”
Brian – “yes, how can I help?” (still a very strong Geordie accent)
Keith “I have been passed you mobile number etc. etc…………………”
I went on to explain the full story of how my parents had been season ticket holders from 1974 up until 2011 and have followed Villa in not only the UK, but travelled to Belgium, Iceland, Rotterdam, and Spain on 3 occasions to watch their team abroad. I spoke of how my Mom in 2016 had Sepsis and been given hours to live, and managed to pull through. I continued to tell Brian how my Dad, now 87, (other music compilations are also available) in April 2017 was given “a few weeks to live”.
Brian told me what he was doing and where he was in his life and said he will often get asked to do a variety of things for a good cause, but mentioned that he may have a slot in his diary for the following week. He asked me to call him on the weekend and to come up with two options for us to talk about for the celebration of my mom’s special day. My first impression of Brian Little as a person was very positive and he came across very well indeed and very down to earth.
I resisted calling him on the Saturday but eventually plucked up the courage on Sunday to call the Villa legend and he spoke again at length about the two options I proposed.
Option one, A video message by Brian that I would play to my mom on her birthday.
Option two, him to attend my parents care home in Worcester.
I could not believe it but he suggested that he came with me to see my mom and wish her a happy birthday! As he was unsure where the care home he asked if I could pick him up and we could we travel together to Worcester for him to visit my parents. He said he would spend some time with them both and need a lift back to his car. Another plus side was that it meant me sitting in a car with Brian Little for just under 2 hours in total (the only time I’ve ever been thankful for delays on the M5 and M6!)
After agreeing to meet on a well-known Swedish superstore car park in Wednesbury, Brian arrived early and we spent the next 50 minutes chatting about football through the decades we had lived through. What a grounded gentleman he is, and even though his playing career was cut short by injury, he is still so thankful for what it has allowed him to achieve in his life.
On arrival at the home I introduced him to my parents and my sister – the delight in their eyes will stay with me forever. Having watched him as a player through the 70’s, and followed him when he was a Manager at Villa, the joy it brought to my parents to meet him was unbelievable. I cannot explain just how special that moment was when they both saw Brian Little, and the emotion that followed that. (I even dropped in a “dad joke” by saying to my mom, “I have just brought you a “Little” present”)
He chatted with us all for nearly two hours, and spoke of many happy times during his career and entertained us with funny experiences he had been involved in. He sang my mom “happy birthday” as her cake was brought to her and looked at memorabilia that they had saved from their travels with the team.
When the time came for Brian to leave, he said his fond farewells and agreed for some photos to be taken with us all. I then took him back and we just chatted like the two grey-haired middle-aged football fans that we are.
In a week that started off as any other week in recruitment, I would have never imagined what that week particular week would bring. It’s still so heart-warming to think that people who have had a life of fame are still willing to take time out to “give something back” to the fans who have followed and supported them for many years. He had nothing at all to gain from visiting my parents, but did so out of the goodness of his own heart.
It is said that you should never meet your hero’s, however on this occasion my family was very happy that it did and that Brian Little exceeded all expectations. Thank you, Brian.