It couldn't have gone any better, says two-goal skipper Richmond Kissi

Sunday 08th June 2014
RICHMOND KISSI hailed George Howard’s Benefit Match AMAZING!

The striker organised the match for the 20-year-old goalkeeper along with Darren Anslow and Micky Collins.

The trio were rewarded with a high-quality match that was played at Coldharbour Leisure Centre in Eltham on a scorching Sunday afternoon.

Kissi was appointed captain of George Howard’s Kent League XI and he scored their opening two goals as they beat the Kent Pro XI side 5-3 in a thrilling encounter.

The game lived up to expectations where the likes of Jonjo Shelvey, Bradley Dack, Simon Osborne, Luke Rooney, Deren Ibrahim and Kissi impressing the sun-kissed crowd of 300.

“I’m hot, baking, my feet are on fire but it was worth it,” said a proud Kissi, 23, afterwards.

“It was for George. I’m just happy everyone turned up and we enjoyed the day. 

“I should’ve scored more but I’m well happy with the win but most importantly I was happy with the turn out.  We’re very happy that everyone turned up to watch this game.”

Kissi thanked the past-and-present professional footballers that gave up their time for the goalkeeper, who has responded with the support shown from the Kent football family with his condition improving in South Africa following the car crash on 23 May.

“Amazing to see that we’ve only had a week and a half to get this together and you see the names on the list – quality names throughout and we’ve just happy that we’ve done it.  We’re just happy that everyone came and enjoyed it and we’re happy that we’ve pulled it off.”

Shelvey, 22, flew back from a family holiday in Portugal to play the first team, scoring the equaliser for the Kent Pro XI after Kissi’s fine opener.

When asked what it was like to play on the same pitch as the Swansea City midfielder, Kissi, who played Ryman League Division One South football for Redhill last season, replied: “Decent! I’m used to him aren’t I? We’ve been friends since we were under 12s (at Charlton Athletic). I know what he was like so it was good.  It’s just good to see how much he’s improved.  You can tell he’s different. He’s different gravy.

“His awareness, the way he moves the ball, the way he shields it. It’s good for us to be on the same pitch as someone like that so if any of us want to push on and become pro we know what we need to do.”

Reflecting on the eight-goal thriller, Kissi said: “Of course, we wanted the game to be a credit to George and I think everyone put in a great shift and it was a great game.

“The turnout, the positivity, everyone helping, everyone getting together, the whole week’s been amazing from start to finish and I’m just lost for words man!

“It was a good game, lots of goals so everyone went home happy.  It’s good for everyone to come out to enjoy a good game with quality on the pitch as well.

“It couldn’t have gone any better!”

Kissi helped Erith & Belvedere win the Kent League double under Collins 13 months ago and his Redhill side finished in a relegation zone last season but were reprieved from relegation.

When asked his plans for next season, Kissi said: “I’m just going to go on holiday, enjoy my holiday, come back and then I’ll make my decision.

“Obviously I want to go as high as I can. I want to do everything I can to play as high as possible so you never know.”

Anslow, 44, is the main man when it comes to the Academy at Ryman League Division One North club Cray Wanderers, but he is still without a non-league managerial job.

He just missed out on the Hythe Town job, losing out to Tim Dixon and admitted that he’s missing the dressing room banter.

“To be fair, you do miss it. Of course I miss it. I’d be a lier if I said I didn’t miss it,” he said.

“It is the banter (we exchanged) from the first minute we walked into the dressing room.

“It was good to be involved again, put it that way.”

Anslow had the luxury of naming some big names in his squad.

He said: “The majority of that team today played with me, they have all played for me at some stage, whether it will be Academy or under 18s or in senior football and it’s good to see that they’ve all developed and moved on higher up the pyramid.”

One man back in football is Andy Hessenthaler, 48, who played the second half for Micky Collins’ Kent Pro XI.

Hessenthaler was appointed Peter Taylor’s assistant manager at his beloved Gillingham last month.

“It’s something I never envisaged to be at Gillingham again,” he admitted.

“The only reason it happened is because of Peter Taylor.  We had six cups of coffee at Bluewater and in the end the caffeine set in and I said yes to him.

“He’s a friend, I’ve known him for 20 years and once he asked – I love the club – I didn’t envisaged going back in any capacity but it’s very hard to say no to Peter Taylor.”

Hessenthaler explained why he took part in today’s game.

“It meant a lot today because I’ve known George since he was a baby.

“He was at Charlton and my son Jake is the same age as George and they were with each other last season when they were at Gillingham.

“I’ve known his mum and day for a long, long time so it’s great being a part of what we’ve done today to raise money for him.

“We hope for a speedy recovery for the kid.  We’ve been getting updates at the football club so it means a lot to be apart of it today.”

Hessenthaler praised his fellow professionals for turning out.

“Excellent! It was great to see so many boys here.

“Jonjo Shelvey is the biggest name here. He was great.  We’ve known him from Charlton. For people like that to put themselves out – a few boys have flown back from their holidays and played as well.

“It’s great to see some of the boys that I know and I haven’t seen for a while as well, pulling everyone together.  It’s such a shame it’s in these circumstances. It just shows you how much people want to rally together when there’s one of your own type of thing that are poorly.”

Luke Rooney scored the third goal for Anslow’s Kent League XI – he played Haart of Kent County League football for Stansfeld Oxford & Bermondsey Club before moving to Maidstone United and then winning the Skrill Premier title for Luton Town last season.

Rooney, 23, said: “I don’t know George personally but he was at Gillingham, my ex-club, he was at Charlton when he was younger like myself, so we have a lot of mutual friends.

“One of the lads asked me to come along and I asked if there was anything I could do like donate a shirt or whatever, anything, I would do it and he actually said could I come and play?”

Howard played for Charlton Athletic, Cray Wanderers, Sevenoaks Town, Bromley and Gillingham and Rooney (like everyone else) wants to see him home fully recovered.

“I hope it’s not too long until he’s back on a football field,” said Rooney, who got through 65 minutes.

“He’s a young boy, his career hasn’t really started yet and you certainly don’t want it to see it end before it’s started so it’s very fitting that all the players’ got involved.

“If you look at the calibre of players, ex-pros and pros and even the lads that are semi-pros, I think they showed there’s a lot of talent around in this area and I think it was a good day.”

Collins admitted he was “awful” during his 20 minute cameo performance at the end, exchanging banter with players and officials when he was on and off the pitch.

He said: “Jonjo Shelvey made a fantastic donation to me when he was leaving.

“I’m gobsmacked by the response we’ve got and I’m really pleased.

“The most important thing now is we get the money and George gets a speedy recovery and then we’re all winners.

Collins later added on twitter: “Days like today make you realise what great friends you have in football. Thank you all so much.”

Howard’s cousin, Joe Ranson, made a guest appearance for the Kent League XI when he replaced former Dartford defender Tyrone Sterling after 65 minutes.

He tweeted: “Overwhelmed by people’s support and generosity today for George Howard. Great match and auction, thank you to everyone involved.”

Collins admitted that a game like the one played in Eltham today will never happen again with so many contracted footballers turning out for such a great cause.

And he wants YOU to continue to donate to the fund.

“Hopefully people will go away and still put money in whether it’s a pound, a fiver, a tenner, it doesn’t matter.”

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