THREE Blackpool lads heading to next week’s Middlesbrough game are hoping the Riverside Stadium has cushioned seats.
They need them – their transport to the game isn’t the usual four wheels, but two.
Seasiders fans Matt Smith, John Aspinall and Nick Smith are jumping on their bikes and pedalling 135 miles to the North East, to raise money for Gary Parkinson (pictured).
Chances are these lads – none of whom are regular cyclists – will be a little saddle-sore afterwards, hence the need for the padded seats.
The trio, who are well known in the Fylde for their weekly Seasiders Podcast, chose the Middlesbrough game for their money-raising venture, because it is a fixture which has particular resonance when it comes to Parkinson.
The 43-year-old, who can only communicate by blinking following a stroke last September, kickstarted his long and illustrious footballing career at Middlesbrough in the 1980s. He is held in high regard for helping the club win back-to-back promotions, and in total made more than 200 appearances for Boro.
Parkinson went on to play for Lancashire clubs Bolton, Burnley and Preston, before moving to Blackpool in 2001.
He hung up his boots a couple of years later, and was working as youth team coach at Bloomfield Road when he suffered his stroke.
“We started thinking in the summer about something we could do for Parky, and the Middlesbrough game seemed the perfect opportunity given his links with the club,” said Aspinall.
“None of us are what you’d call cyclists, but we’ve tried to do a bit of training in recent weeks.
“We took our bikes to the Trough of Bowland the other weekend and did our first serious ride.
“At the end of it, we were all wearing a slightly stunned look, and wondering if we’d bitten off more than we can chew. But hopefully it will go okay, and the main thing is raising money for a cause that is close to a lot of football fans’ hearts.”
The lads will set off early next Thursday and cycle via Preston North End – where they will be met by boss Phil Brown – then Turf Moor, before heading to Middlesbrough.
They will cycle wearing three Blackpool shirts given to them by the club, and are due to arrive at the Riverside at 1pm on the Saturday.
“Middlesbrough have given us permission to use the changing room next to the referees room, which is a bonus,” added Aspinall.
“If we’d not been able to shower, it would have been a long 90 minutes for whoever we were sitting next to during the game!”
Aspinall and Matt and Nick Smith will be joined on their charity trek by Andrew Ogilvie, a physio from the Grant Smith Therapy Centre.
Ogilvie gave the lads treatment for aches and strains picked up during their training and – despite being a North End supporter – has volunteered to act as the trio’s official masseur for the trip.
All money raised will go to The Gary Parkinson Trust Fund and the Stroke Association.
n You can donate by texting Ride53 £2 to 70070, or at www.justgiving.com/podcastforparky
n You can also listen to the lads weekly podcast at: http://seasiderspodcast.co.uk/