Rival Poppies and Diamonds fans join forces to run London Marathon

AFC Rushden & Diamonds fan Matt Ward and Kettering Town FC fan Matt Spearman have never met, but appear together on the same pitch thanks to the skills of photographer Alison Bagley
AFC Rushden & Diamonds fan Matt Ward and Kettering Town FC fan Matt Spearman have never met, but appear together on the same pitch thanks to the skills of photographer Alison Bagley

Two football fans will put their allegiance to one side as they compete in the London Marathon – just four days after their club’s rivalry is renewed.

AFC Rushden & Diamonds fan Matt Ward and Kettering Town fan Matt Spearman are both running in the annual 26.2 mile race on April 24 for charity Crohn’s & Colitis UK.

The clubs will face off for the first time under their current guises in the NFA Hillier Senior Cup final at Sixfields Stadium on Wednesday, April 20.

The pair have never met and only became aware of their footballing rivalry after noticing they were both raising money for the same charity on a Facebook group.

Mr Spearman, who is also the Poppies TV commentator, chose the charity after his fiancée Kate Shearman, whom he is marrying next month, was diagnosed with a mild form of Crohn’s.

He said: “Kate suffers from a fairly mild form of the disease.

“She gets tired very easily because of it but I know others really struggle.

“It’s quite nice that both me and Matt have got a competitive edge but overall it’s all about raising money for charity.

“Both teams are doing really well and there’s a chance we could be in the same league next year and really renew the rivalry.”

But Mr Ward, who is also the Diamonds treasurer, says the rivalry will all be forgotten at the start line.

He said: “I was diagnosed with Crohn’s in 2009 and it’s not the most pleasant condition to have.

“I had a pretty torrid first year with it and it shook me up but I’ve settled on a tablet that’s worked really well.

“I’ve been lucky enough to have had a good few years and to raise some funds for that charity will be delightful.

“I’m sure next Wednesday night the rivalry will definitely be there but come the start line we’ll put that to one side.

“My initial target was £2,500 and I’ve already gone through that so I’m absolutely thrilled.

“I’ve been so touched by the amount of people across all walks of life who have contributed.

“People to do with the club have raised more than £750 which is absolutely incredible – that’s players, management, fans, board members, everyone.”

Mr Spearman has run a marathon before and is the PE co-ordinator at Rothwell Junior School, where he is a teacher.

He added: “I’ve been doing a lot of training and I’m also the chairman of Desborough Rapid Running Club.

“I’ve run a marathon in Manchester before and it was hard work.”

The race will be Mr Ward’s first marathon, having only started running to kick the cravings he had when he gave up smoking.

He added: “I think from the times Matt has been doing he’s going to be well ahead of me.

“I’ve run 22 miles in training which was incredibly tough – so, so hard.

“I got to the end and couldn’t imagine how I’d do the extra four miles and I still don’t really have a plan for that!”

To donate to Matt Ward, click here.

To donate to Matt Spearman, click here.