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In July 2022, Paul Stratton was substituted onto the pitch at Goodison Park to score a penalty in a 4-0 friendly win over Ukrainian side Dynamo Kyiv.
The background story of how Everton helped to lay on the surprise for Paul - an Everton Season Ticket member - featured on 'Michael McIntyre’s Big Show' on Saturday night.
The collaboration between the production team and Everton was organised to reward the selfless Liverpool Council worker, who has made numerous trips to Poland in order to help fleeing refugees since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began in February last year.
It’s wonderful, really. I don’t think any supporter has ever got to do anything like that before.
We recorded the show that went out on Saturday late last year, so it’s been a little while since it actually aired.
But it proved to be a good day to go live. We beat Arsenal, so everyone was in good spirits on Saturday night, and then it went out.
It was great watching it back. The night was incredible, even though I didn’t know what was going on.
I knew something was happening, but I never guessed what it would turn out to be.
I thought it was Everton planning something. There were cameras everywhere. The Club are great on Socials, they always put really good stuff out so I suspected maybe Everton had something planned.
But then it all started happening, the press officer, who obviously turned out to be an actor, was saying all these different things and each started coming true. It was just incredible.
It felt particularly weird sitting on the bench. I introduced myself as the oldest ball boy in town to the likes of Seamus Coleman which was pretty funny.
I was also getting the oddest look from Ashley Cole, I guess he was probably thinking, ‘Who are you? You are not coming on our pitch’. It tickled me.
I thought it was maybe leading up to me doing something at half-time, but then they dragged me away at the break instead.
Then, I was in the tunnel. I thought I would just be saying hello to the players, and I was gutted because I didn’t have my phone or a Sharpie.
I really wanted to get photos with the likes of Jordan Pickford and players like that.
But then they told me Frank wanted me, and he told me I was going on for Dele.
That was when everything shut down. I didn’t know what to do with myself. I couldn’t even hear the crowd.
I got on the pitch and walked towards the penalty spot. The referee then said, “Okay, mate... On the whistle only”. My main focus from there wasn’t even scoring, it was just don’t slip.
I must admit, though, and professional players will hate me for saying this, I thought the goal looked quite big. To my relief, it went in. And when it did I wasn’t thinking, my body took over.
I just ran and the adrenaline was pumping through me.
All the players came over, and Frank, who was fantastic with me on the day. He was a top professional.
The reaction in the days that followed were wild. My brother and wife had to turn their phones off because they had that many messages. I was getting calls from every news outlet you could imagine. Across the world!
The footage ended up on ESPN and at last count, I think the video had over 10 million views.
The reaction since the show aired on Saturday has, in comparison to that, been much quieter.
I did an interview with BBC because they were the ones who first interviewed me when I was in Poland.
That’s how it all came about. I am not on social media, and to be honest, I wasn't sure about even doing an interview. But it was an opportunity for exposure and to do some fundraising.
Ultimately while this has all been great, that’s what the message is about - raising awareness. We have raised £250,000 and I am planning to make a few more trips to Poland over the next few months with friends and family.
While this cause has all been about Ukraine, I would urge people to get involved even with local charities.
For example, there are things like warm spaces that are popping up more and more. If you can, volunteer in one of them for a few hours. Go and make someone laugh or make a few brews.
You can, of course, do similar to what we have done, or work with someone like the British Red Cross, but there are a lot of people who need help where we are too. So if you can, look at those little charities and help out.
By Paul Stratton, Evertonian