ITV Racing's Oli Bell has cleared a hurdle to pave the way to Plough Lane this Saturday - and he's determined to keep going in the final furlong!
The well-known presenter has very kindly taken some time out of his busy schedule to join a host of Dons legends at the Cherry Red Records Stadium this weekend as we aim to raise funds for St George's Hospital in their Time for a Change appeal.
Having played football to a good standard in both Australia and South Africa in the past, Oli is looking forward to showcasing his skills once again, but he believes his qualities may have diminished somewhat!
“I haven’t done anything like this for a long, long time, so I’ll be pretty useless,” he said. “I used to play a bit back in the day when I was living in Australia. I’m sure that everything I thought I could do will go out the window. But I’m of course looking forward to playing against some Dons legends – it will be very exciting.
“I’ll actually be working on the Saturday morning. I’ll be doing The Opening Show and then coming to the stadium. Work have been really accommodating about giving me the Saturday off because the event is for such a good cause. It’ll be nice to have a run around after four days straight of doing the racing!”
As for what the Time for a Change appeal means to Oli personally, he was keen to emphasise the importance of recognising the fantastic work that St George’s Hospital does to support it’s local community.
“It’s the local hospital to me and the work they do is invaluable. Essentially it’s a big part of the community,” he reflected. “Raising money for the hospital and for the NHS will only benefit the local community and beyond. In the last two to three years we have seen the importance of the medical staff that we have up and down the country and this is a way of us saying thank you to them. They are, without a shadow of a doubt, our unsung heroes.”
Despite being a Yeovil Town fan, Oli was keen to express that he has developed quite the soft spot for Wimbledon.
“Funnily enough my first ever game of football that I went to was a Wimbledon match,” said Oli. “My dad used to support Wimbledon and he took me to see them play Arsenal at Highbury. So I have always had a soft spot for the Dons and I’m delighted to get involved with the club.
“I live half a mile away from the ground in Earlsfield. Wimbledon are very much my local team now. I know Ivor (Heller) and Andrew Harding, who has sponsored the club for a long time.”
Sport has been a massive part of Oli’s life for as long as he can remember and whether it be horse racing, football or cricket, he is under no illusions as to how big an impact it can have on an individual as they progress through life.
“At school I was absolutely terrible at anything to do with education! Sport was the only thing that I was half-decent at really. There was so much about sport that I got enjoyment from.
"It's not only the physical benefits, but also the friends I made from playing sport. For example, when I moved to Somerset I was very young and I became friends with people through playing football in our village. I also played rugby and cricket. I’ve made friends for life through these sports. It’s always nice to have something to compete for. Sport is a great unifying thing and I think it will always be the constant in my life.”
Saturday's match will kick-off at 2.00 pm with the following ticket prices: Adults £10, Under-18s £4. To book your seat, visit our online ticket page.
Visit www.timeforachange.org.uk to find out how you can get involved and become an appeal supporter.
You can bid to play in the match on Saturday and for more details see our previous article.