Published on: 11 August 2023

FIFA Women's World Cup fever helped bring history to life for patients as they joined in a session dedicated to the Beautiful Game.

The Fans Museum, based in Northern Gateway in Sunderland, took items from its displays on tour to Sunderland Royal Hospital.

The visit was hosted by the Alexandra Centre, which reopened to patients this spring following its closure during the pandemic.

Now it is hosting activity sessions once again, inviting people with dementia and delirium from its wards to play games, enjoy a treat, watch films, chat about their memories and more.

A Fans Museum shows Women's Premier League Trophy to one of the patients at Sunderland Royal Hospital..jpg

A Fans Museum volunteer shows Women's Premier League Trophy to one of the patients at Sunderland Royal Hospital.

Its work is aimed at helping keep their minds busy and bodies moving, improving their wellbeing and boosting mobility as part of their recovery.

The centre’s work goes hand in hand with the efforts of the museum, which uses its collection of football memorabilia from across the world to bring people together.

The room is decorated to reflect a celebration, season or event, with football items already on show for the run of the cup.

Items selected from the museum’s archives for the latest session included the Women’s Premier League Trophy, won by Sunderland AFC Ladies three times from 2010.

Shirts belonging to past Sunderland and England players and notable North Easterners, Jill Scott, Steph Houghton and Beth Mead were on show.

England’s Men’s side also got a look in. A replica of the World Cup was on hand and tops which belonged to Wayne Rooney, Bryan Robson and Sunderland’s own Jimmy Montgomery on view.

Fans Museum volunteers and DDOT team members with memorabilia on show during the visit to the Alexandra Centre..jpg

Fans Museum volunteers and DDOT team members with memorabilia on show during the visit to the Alexandra Centre.

The region’s passion for the game was not forgotten, with memorabilia from Newcastle United and Middlesbrough FC on show.

Michael Ganley and his team of volunteers chatted to patients during the event. The museum team’s visits were also put on hold during the pandemic, but are proving a success once again.

Michael said:

"Football fans have a real passion for the game. In our region it’s like a religion and it’s part of our weekly routine.

"We know from the work we do it can be a huge part of cognitive care and relaying memories and these visits are all related to that. We see it when we come in to talk to the patients.

"When we were developing the museum, it was all about education and health.

"We’re incredibly proud of the building we have taken custodianship of and the collection we’ve built up, but it was always going to be about taking it out to the people and they love it. Our outreach work gets a fantastic response."

Kathryn Wressell is an Elder Life Specialist Practitioner with the Trust’s Delirium and Dementia Outreach Team (DDOT).

She said:

"For a lot out our patients, football has been at a fundamental part of their life, from childhood, adulthood to their memories with their own families. Talking about it allows them to reminisce, share stories and chat with others just like them.

"Our elderly patients have often been in hospital or a care setting a long time. These sessions allow them to take time out of a busy ward and stimulates their memory. They encourage them to talk, have something to eat and drink and have been proven to shorten their hospital stay.  

"We want to say a big thank you to the Fans Museum. Its members are passionate and knowledgeable about their cause, they’re professional and engage exceptionally well with our patients.

"The feedback from patients and carers about the sessions is always excellent.”

Among those to join in the latest session was Eric Horner, 85, who was signed for Chesterfield FC in 1957, until a broken ankle ended his playing career.

He also spent time with North East sides including Blyth Spartans and Ashington.

Eric said:

"It was interesting to see what they brought in and it was great to speak to the volunteers.”

Bill Richardson, 89, said:

"It’s been a different morning and I enjoyed seeing the football strips and having a look through the books.

"It’s brightened my day up and it was nice to be part of a group too."

part of a group too."