BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
MARVIN BARTLEY is aiming to to bring some Christmas cheer to the victims of the tragic Grenfell Tower disaster with a little help from boxing superstar Anthony Joshua.
The Hibernian midfielder watched the events of June 14 unfold in horror, with an estimated 80 residents losing their lives in a blaze in the 24-storey flat in London. 196 households required relocation, including someone he knew through a friend – bringing the catastrophe painfully close to home.
Allied with an emotive interview with a father who had lost her daughter in the fire, Bartley felt moved to do his bit to raise funds in the aftermath.
Bartley will raffle off several items of sporting memorabilia in the weeks leading up to Christmas, with fans able to enter the draw by donating a minimum of £5 towards the campaign. The first item is a signed Hibs jersey from the testimonial of Hibs legend Lewis Stevenson.
However, that is the tip of the iceberg, with unified heavyweight champion Joshua providing autographed gloves, on-loan Hibs winger Brandon Barker delivering a signed Manchester City shirt from his parent club and English Premier League stars Harry Arter, Charlie Austin and Sam Vokes chipping in.
Bartley, a dad to young Rayden, said candidly: “I watched it all on the news and a guy came on who had lost his home and one of his children. It just made me think it could have been any one of us in that position.
“You go to sleep thinking everything is okay and you wake up in the morning and your house has gone and you have lost a family member. People’s lives there will never be the same and they are still struggling now.
“I know someone who actually lived in there through a friend and they’ve been relocated. It has been difficult, families have been uprooted, kids have had to move schools. It has been such a sad state of affairs.
“So whatever I can raise I’ll go down there with, it will probably be for children and I’ll try and go down as close to Christmas as possible. It’s a time of year when people should be happy and this will be the first Christmas since it happened, so I’ll try and help.
“It’s not too far away from where I grew up – only an hour and a half. It could have been people I know, it could have been members of my family. I just wanted to help. If we can make just one person smile who has been affected by this then job done.
“A lot of my friends in sport have helped me by signing stuff. Harry Arter at Bournemouth has helped me, Charlie Austin, AP McCoy, Kevin Long and Sam Vokes at Burnley. Brandon Barker here has got me a signed Manchester City shirt, Anthony Joshua. So a lot of different people, which is great.”
The opportunity to get your hands on Joshua’s gloves is likely to garner plenty of attention, with the 27-year-old fighter one of the biggest sporting stars in Britain today.
Bartley smiled: “What can I say? I told him I’d knock him out if he didn’t help! Actually, if he does read this, I’m just messing around.
“I know someone at Matchroom Boxing and I have met him a couple of times and been to watch him train so I have stayed in contact, and he has signed a few pairs of gloves for me.”
Away from his charitable efforts, it is back to the day job for Bartley and his Hibs teammates this afternoon when Aberdeen visit Easter Road this afternoon in a rematch of last season’s thrilling Scottish Cup semi-final which the Dons won 3-2.
He added: “We are the new boys in the league, whereas they have been there, done that, and currently sit second in the league, so we know how tough this will be.
“That semi-final does help because we ran them so close, but it probably makes them realise they will need to be at the top of their game to win. Although we’ll raise our game, they will do the same – but hopefully we can go one better this time.”
You can donate to Marvin Bartley’s campaign at https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/marvin-bartley-grenfell-tower