Nino Severino: Ex-Town star Milton had an impressive career - but his legacy will be his charity work
- Credit: Archant
In his latest column, Nino Severino discusses his recent meeting with ex-Ipswich Town star Simon Milton and his impressive charity work in Ghana.
During my weekly duties spread across sport, I have the opportunity to meet some incredible individuals.
It was my work in the charitable sector that created an opportunity to spend some time with ex-Ipswich Town star Simon Milton.
Simon was a professional footballer in an era where not many of the pro's made enough money to retire on for the rest of their lives, but what he did leave the game with was a very impressive footballing career.
You sometimes hear about the players who come through into the big leagues at a later stage in their careers - there are not many, but Simon is a classic example of someone who climbed the ladder of football the very hard way.
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His first efforts of breaking into the big time with Norwich City unfortunately ended with an unsuccessful trial, which led him to playing for a non-league side, Thetford Rovers, and then Bury Town.
It was at Bury Town Simon was to experience a pivotal opportunity when playing a friendly match against Ipswich Town - during this match there was one man that would change Simon's life for ever, it was the then-Town manager Bobby Ferguson.
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If you are an Town fan, especially of an older vintage, you will recognise the name Bobby Ferguson as the man who took over the managerial role at Ipswich Town after the legendary Bobby Robson left to take on the biggest job in English football, the manager of the national team.
Ferguson had banked a lot of football experience, giving him an eye for spotting talent, and that's exactly how he changed Simon's life after that Bury Town v Ipswich Town friendly match.
Simon showed some real class, impressing Ferguson so much he offered him an opportunity of a trial for Ipswich.
While nowadays the transfer fees run into six and seven-digit figures, Simon's transfer fee was a mere £5,000, a long way from the multi-million-pound deals regularly experienced by players in the modern game.
This highlights two areas - one, how much the game has changed in terms of the money on offer for footballers at this level, and two, within reason, if a player is willing to work hard enough, the dream of professional football at a high level is always a dream worth holding onto.
If I'm honest, I knew Simon had played for Ipswich Town, but as I went to the Salt House Hotel on the Marina, I did not know much more than this.
After my meeting I decided to look at the statistics for Simon as a Town player, and for a player who came through the non-league ranks, it's a very impressive list of achievements.
He represented the Blues 332 times, scoring 55 goals during his time at the club as a midfielder.
And after meeting him, and experiencing his incredible energy and appetite for life challenges, what he achieved in football - the hard way - does not surprise me at all.
We were connected by a close friend who thought as two individuals active in a sporting charitable foundation we may have something in common, and what a meeting it was.
I asked many questions over a period of two hours, Simon told me all about his experiences building the charity he represents as Director, Future Stars, which is based in Ghana, offering school children the experience of high quality sports coaching and education.
The quality of delivery and the impact is immense and unquestionable, launched by two founding companies, OMA Group and Yinson Production WA. Together they have created a force, that simply put, changes the lives of thousands of children through sport and education, a focus that is very dear to my heart.
It was not only the achievements of the Future Stars project that impressed me so, but the fact that this charity has motivated many individuals to help, ex-Ipswich, Newcastle and England star, Titus Bramble being the highest profile individual.
His support goes further than simply remote backing, Titus regularly flies over to Ghana to be very hands on.
After Simon and I shook hands, I left very impressed by a man who without doubt achieved much in football, but, for me, his greatest legacy will be what he has achieved through football, sport and education for the children of Ghana.
As I continued to walk along the marina, I thought to myself - what an incredible man, with boundless energy, and still with a burning desire to deliver so much more for these children, thousands of miles away in Africa!