Men's Team

Former City star tackles Coast to Coast challenge

Over the course of a storied career with Manchester City, Newcastle United and England, Steve Howey was no stranger to putting his best foot forward in the quest for success.

But starting today, the former central defender is setting out to tackle a challenge of a completely different magnitude – but one that’s no less important.

Alongside several other former professional footballers and a number of other volunteers and high profile figures from various walks of life, Howey is embarking on a testing five day trek trek to cover a significant part of England’s picturesque but challenging Coast to Coast route.

Walking under the acronyn of WATCH (Walking and Talking Charity Hikes), the group are aiming to raise £50,000 in aid of the NHS and mental health charities.

Originally the mission was to climb Africa’s tallest peak, Mount Kilimanjaro.

But that lofty ambition has been put on hold for 12 months due to safety concerns over the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Instead, the team will be setting out today (Wednesday) from Carlisle aiming to cover 83 miles over the next five days, taking in Hadrian’s Wall along the way before ending up at South Shields on Sunday.

Howey spent three memorable years at City between 2000 and 2003, playing under both Joe Royle and Kevin Keegan, where he experienced both the lows of relegation from the Premier League – and the joy of securing the Championship crown the following season.

Now a respected media pundit, over the past few years, Howey, who also starred for England, Newcastle and Leicester during his illustrious career, has also become a passionate advocate for positive mental well-being.

He has won widespread praise and respect for his honesty in opening up about the issues he has had to grapple with at times in his life after football.

To that end – in the company of other well-known former players – Howey is preparing to help both further boost the profile of the issue of mental well-being and raise vital funds for the cause by covering the Coast to Coast route.

Howey is setting out in tandem with, amongst others, former Liverpool and England goalkeeper Chris Kirkland, ex-Hull striker Dean Windass, Nigel Jemson, formerly of Sheffield Wednesday and Nottingham Forest, ex-Preston and York striker Jon Parkin and former Nottingham Forest shot-stopper Mark Crossley.

The six have all spoken publicly about their own struggles with their mental well-being at stages in their lives following their football careers and have set up the WATCH collective in an effort to try and affect some positive change.

And Howey says preparing for the challenge has provided the perfect inspiration during the challenges of various lockdowns in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Initially we never even thought about the charity hike. It was just a group of us going out walking because of the positive mental health aspect it can bring,” Howey revealed.

“It was aimed at everyone – not just ex-players but men, women and kids as we all find it difficult at times and the benefits of getting out there walking – even just for a few minutes – is huge.

“Mark Crossley was the driver behind it. I knew of Mark– I’d played against him a few times - but I really got to know him through Dean Windass and then it grew from a few conversations on the phone and the rest of us got involved.

“Because of COVID, we knew we had to make an early call about postponing going to Kilimanjaro and had to put in place another special walk.

“As a group, we sat down and looked at various routes and the Coast to Coast one stood out. It’s a difficult one to do but also it’s special because of the views and the history associated with it.

“The response we’ve had on social media to the challenge has been huge. And hearing from so many people about how walking has helped turn their own lives around has been the most satisfying thing.

“We haven’t been frightened to talk about how difficult we have found things at certain times.

“People look at you as ex-footballers and think everything should be fine – but we all have our trials and tribulations. Stuff happens after football and being on your own away from a football environment can bring problems.

“If nothing else, hopefully we’ve helped show it’s OK not to be OK and that it’s so vitally important just to speak to someone.

“And it’s not just men – it’s all of us.”

With a lengthy training spell preparing for the mission now completed, Howey and the rest of the group will set off from Carlisle on Wednesday (July 14) and are aiming to finish in South Shields on England’s east coast next Sunday.

And amongst the figures joining them in the challenge is Tony Bellew, Britain’s former heavyweight world champion.

“We’re meeting up on Tuesday and starting first thing on Wednesday morning and we all really looking forward to it,” Howey added.

“The route averages out at about 20 miles a day which doesn’t seem a lot but it’s not flat and parts will be quite challenging.

“And I remember when I was training, the first time I did a 20 miler, the next day I couldn’t walk. So that was a reminder that: ‘Right, I know what I have to do now.’

“You have to put the training in otherwise it’s undoable.

DOWNLOAD THE MAN CITY APP

“Some of the walks have been very difficult but, that said, ultimately you are not running around at 100mph trying to chase after Thierry Henry!

“This is much more relaxing.

“There are quite of few of us taking part and not all are former footballers.

“Chris knows Tony Bellew and he’s coming along too which is great. He was originally only planning to do a couple of a days but now he’s going to be with us for the week and it will be great to have him on the trip.

“Along the route we’ll be featured on Sky, TalkSport and Premier League World, and that will hopefully also spread the word and help us raise more money.”

The WATCH mission has also been boosted by messages of support from City boss Pep Guardiola, along with Liverpool counterpart Jurgen Klopp as well as high profile figures such as Alan Shearer, Gary Lineker and TV personalities Ant and Dec to name but a few.

The group have set up a dedicated website and have also established a special Just Giving page in a bid to reach their £50,000 target.

And Howey says having the support of Pep and his fellow football luminaries has been an enormous extra boost.

“We’ve all got inroads to certain people. I approached City and asked if Pep would get involved and Pep was absolutely brilliant with the video,” Howey revealed.

“We are all so grateful for his help and support.

2021-22 HOME KIT: ON SALE NOW

“Jurgen Klopp provided a similar message, as did Alan Shearer and he then got Gary Lineker and Ian Wright on board.

“I’m also lucky enough to be friends with Ant and Dec and they did one too

“We’ve had massive support from everywhere really and we are so appreciative of everyone.

“Hopefully, the walk can help make a big difference in bringing cash to the NHS and mental health charities.” The WATCH project’s website can be found at https://www.walkingsbrilliant.com/

Anyone wishing to donate can access the Just Giving page here, while anyone interested in finding out more about the project can follow Steve’s regular updates on his Twitter page @stevehowey624 and message him there.

View all club partners

Mancity.com

31?
loading