Ex-Service Personnel Lead Tributes To Queen

Ex-service personnel from Everton in the Community’s Veterans’ Hub will help lead the tributes as Goodison Park marks the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II this weekend.

Three retired members of the Armed Forces will be joined by a standard bearer to lay a wreath in the centre circle ahead of kick-off in the Premier League fixture with West Ham (2.15pm BST).

The quartet, who have all served Queen and country, will join the players, both managers and officials around the centre circle for a period of silence, which will be followed by the national anthem as Goodison Park pays tribute to the nation’s longest-serving monarch, who passed away last week at the age of 96.

Dave Curtis, Project Coordinator for the Everton Veterans’ Hub, said: “It will be a proud moment for the guys.

“We get the opportunity, at certain times of the year, to go and represent the programme, and the Armed Forces Day and Remembrance fixture are important occasions.

“However, this is something extra special and there is a really emotional side, given it’s a memorial to Her Majesty The Queen.

“I was speaking to the three guys this morning and one of them, who has been an Everton fan all his life and is now in his late 60s, had to sit down when I told him.

“Just getting a chance to walk on the Goodison turf would be enough for him, but to do it in such a way that he is representing the community, his regiment, the Club, and laying a wreath for The Queen, is amazing for him.”

Players from both sides will wear black armbands as a mark of respect, while the flags at Goodison Park have been lowered to half-mast and will remain so until after Her Majesty’s funeral on Monday.

An in-game tribute will also be paid at all matches, with an image of Queen Elizabeth II appearing on the big screen for one minute in-game when the match clock strikes 70 minutes, to mark the length of Her Majesty’s reign and to provide supporters with the opportunity to show their respects with applause.

And Curtis expects the occasion to be well respected by all supporters of both sides inside Goodison.

He added: “Hopefully everyone inside the famous old stadium comes together as one to respect the life of someone who has been a presence in all our lives.

“We know what we are there for as ex-forces. We gave an oath to Queen and country and it will be a proud moment and a fitting tribute to a wonderful woman who was on the throne for 70 years and treated everyone the same and with great respect. Now it’s our turn as club and city to show that respect to her in front of the world.”

The Everton Veterans’ Hub, funded by the National Lottery, engages ex-service personnel who are at risk of isolation with sport, training and social activities.

The programme offers a range of engagement tools, support mechanisms and evidence-based behavioural change methods to improve the lives of veterans and their families.

As well as directly supporting veterans and their families, the programme also stands to benefit the local community with the participants improving their skills, finding employment, avoiding potential anti-social behaviour and reducing their likelihood of ill health.

There are more than 8,500 identified veterans across Knowsley and these figures are continually increasing along with the levels of homelessness, unemployment and substance misuse.

The programme allows participants to regain structure and routine back into their lives as well as providing tailored information and support for the Knowsley area and beyond.

Curtis, a former acting Lance Corporal who credits Everton in the Community with saving his life, following his recovery from a suicide bomb attack while serving his country in Afghanistan, said: “The programme is so, so important for all the veterans’ in the community and their families.

“The power of the Everton brand plays an important part in everything we do, but it also gives them a place to socially connect with other like-minded people, a camaraderie, an opportunity to get physically fit and get educated to move on into employment.

“It’s just a proper family and the retention on the programme is massive, due to the environment we have. I can’t speak highly enough of it.”