DAVID Whitehead – the Cherries fan who devised the Burton Albion coach fund scheme – has been forced to cancel a shopping trip to the West End after receiving a VIP invitation to attend the FA Cup final.
A supporter for 50 years, David and fellow fan Adrian Lee were rewarded for their ingenuity, with the FA giving them complimentary tickets to Saturday’s showpiece between Arsenal and Hull City.
The pair were responsible for raising almost £3,000 towards the cost of return coaches after Burton’s trip to Dean Court in the third round in January had been postponed at the 11th hour.
A website was set up to help pay for the Brewers faithful to travel back to Dorset for the rearranged match with the scheme receiving widespread publicity and acclaim throughout football.
David and Adrian were presented with their tickets at Dean Court yesterday when they had their picture taken with the FA Cup and Cherries legend Steve Fletcher, whose late grandfather Jack Howe won the trophy with Derby County in 1946.
“It is absolutely fantastic,” said David, whose background is in marketing. “I never expected this. I was supposed to be going shopping in the West End so, when I broke the news to Karen, she wasn’t best pleased. Fortunately, she has been quite understanding but it could cost me!”
David came up with the idea because of the goodwill between the two sets of supporters, which had been established after Cherries had been made welcome at Burton’s Pirelli Stadium when sealing promotion from League Two in 2010.
He added: “I knew there would be a response because the initial feedback had been positive but the way it took off was just phenomenal.
“It wasn’t just AFC Bournemouth supporters, people from different clubs and countries wanted to chip in as well.
“I have always thought about football as a fantastic way to make friends. As and when an opportunity arises for rival fans to extend the hand of friendship and do something really positive, I think we should.
"It is a counter-balance to some of the bad publicity so there is another side to football and I think we showed that here.”
The scheme saw enough raised for four coaches to make the return trip with Cherries winning the tie 4-1 to set up a fourth round clash against Liverpool.
Adrian, a marketing executive for the RLA Group in Hurn, said: “I was overwhelmed to receive a ticket. When I got the email from the FA, I had to read it three or four times before it sank in. It is brilliant.
"I saw David had put a message out on the Vitals forum saying he would like to raise money for the Burton fans and I thought I knew how to get it rolling so set up a Just Giving page.
“It started with the intention of maybe buying a few pies but quickly went global due to social media.”