As football resumes across the country the Caplins recount their epic challenge for North London Hospice & Chai Cancer Care back in February this year.
By Bob Caplin
It’s happened to all of us. Someone makes a suggestion, which at the time seems a good idea but you’re safe in the knowledge that it’ll never happen….or so you think.
This is what happened to me last November when my son suggested a fund-raising challenge to mark the 10th anniversary of the passing of my dear late wife, Roz, who passed away in February 2010. The challenge was to visit all 92 league football club grounds in just 92 hours.
We decided to use our challenge as an opportunity to raise funds for North London Hospice & Chai Cancer Care, two charities that were extremely supportive towards our family during some of the more challenging times throughout Roz’ illness.
Fast-forward to Sunday 23rd February 2020 and we were ready to set off on this (rather daunting) challenge. Our start point was Watford FC and the finish line was at Tottenham Hotspur’s ground. The route covered 2,500 miles and allowed for just five-minute stops at each ground for a photo to prove we’d been there.
We factored in four or five hours a night to sleep to help us for the journey, which would take us just inside the 92 hours, but this, proved to be wildly optimistic.
Together with my son, Josh Caplin and son-in-law Stephen Goldman, we decided to use a motorhome and were delighted that a specialist rental company, Spaceships, were willing to support our challenge by supplying a four-berth motorhome free of charge. Prepared meals were kindly provided by Manna Deli, to whom we were most grateful.
Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur, Watford, Manchester City, Sheffield United, Everton, Northampton Town, Derby County, Bolton and Leyton Orient provided us with memorabilia, which we are being auctioned here: https://www.32auctions.com/caplinsdothe92
And They’re Off!
Stocked with food and drink we left Watford at 7:04 pm bound for Wycombe Wanderers QPR, Fulham, Chelsea, AFC Wimbledon and Crystal Palace. By 2.30am we’d visited 12 grounds and stopped just outside Southampton for a rest. Strong winds and driving rain put us well behind schedule on Monday. The weather and the huge distances covered meant we had only reached 25 clubs by the end of Day 1. There was still quite a mountain to climb. Reducing our sleep time to 2-2.5 hours per night was the only way to make up some of the distance.
On Day 2 We went from Swansea to Shrewsbury and then to the Midlands finishing at Burnley via the Liverpool and Manchester grounds. More clubs covered this day, 29 in all. Unfortunately, because we were running late, we missed the pitch-side opportunity at Manchester United. On our travels we experienced every type of weather; snowstorms, strong winds, driving rain, hailstones, mist and bright sunshine in addition to a flooded, impassable road.
Day 3: We left Burnley at 4.00am and after a quick stop at Blackburn Rovers it was up the west coast to Carlisle, a journey that provided magnificent views of the snow-capped hills of the Pennines. Day 3 took us from west, north, east and finally south to Stevenage, via 26 clubs. We’d reached the last day and there were 12 clubs left on the list. We headed for Cambridge United, Norwich, Ipswich, Colchester United and then to Southend United. Our motorhome, which had proved such a reliable fourth member of the team, started to play up and meant we had to coast along at under 40mph.
The Last Leg
It looked like we were facing defeat until the motor home company came to our rescue with a replacement vehicle. After a quick switch on the A2 in Kent, we were into the last leg of London clubs. There was just time for a pitch-side photo at Leyton Orient before we were onto Arsenal and our final destination at Tottenham. The satnav showed 27 minutes and we had 45 minutes on the clock to go. AArrgghh! we were caught in heavy traffic at Finsbury Park where major roadworks were being undertaken. We considered somebody running to Tottenham, which was only 3 ½ miles away but decided this would not really be effective. So, we sat out the traffic jam, constantly looking at the clock, and finally, finally, made it to Tottenham at 2:56pm. The challenge which had started at 7:04pm on Sunday the 23rd of February finished 92 hours later at 3:04 pm at Tottenham Hotspur. We made it with 8 minutes to spare. Phew!
We were exhausted but exhilarated, running on adrenaline. Thanks to the most amazing support from friends, family and colleagues we raised an incredible £22,000 for Chai Cancer Care and The North London Hospice.
For me, my son Josh and son-in-law Stephen, it was a truly memorable experience and one we will treasure for many years. Many of the clubs are a blur in our memories but we have the photos to prove that we were there and so we can savour the moments at our leisure.
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