Sheffield Wednesday: Owls duo take place among world greats

Owls physio Paul Smith (left) and club doctor Richard Higgins (right)
Owls physio Paul Smith (left) and club doctor Richard Higgins (right)

Two key members of Sheffield Wednesday’s support staff will be rubbing shoulders with some of the greatest ever players from past and present in the aid of charity today.

Owls club doctor Richard Higgins and head physio Paul Smith are set to help raise awareness and cash for UNICEFin a fund-raising football match at Old Trafford.

David Beckham is the organiser of the event and will captain a Great Britain and Ireland line-up against a Rest of the World team led by World Cup winner Zinedine Zidane.

Should their services be required, Higgins and Smith will provide medical attention to Beckham’s team, featuring John Terry, Jamie Carragher, Ashley Cole and Michael Owen.

Higgins – who also has roles with the English Institute of Sport, working closely with Sheffield superstar Jessica Ennis-Hill, and the England Under-21s – told The Star: “It is a great privilege to be part of the event.

“It is going to be a fantastic day and I am really looking forward to it. Hopefully we will help raise huge amounts of money for the charity.”

The Rest of the World side is made up of Beckham’s former teammates, including Luis Figo, Ronaldinho, Fabio Cannavaro and Cafu.

“There are some great footballers who will be playing and I’m sure many of them will still be playing at a good level,” said Higgins. “It is hugely exciting that Paul and myself will be able to meet and interact with them.”

It will be the seventh match Beckham – a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador for ten years – has played in a week in seven parts of the world as part of his bid to raise the profile of the charity.

Higgins said: “It has been an incredible experience this week working alongside David because he is a tremendous person and gives 100 per cent what ever he does.

“He is such a nice guy and so thoughtful to the children that this charity supports, culminating in today’s game which is the icing on the cake.”

Higgins – who worked with the Great Britain football squad at the London 2012 Olympics – said he was asked six weeks ago if he fancied featuring in the epic journey.

“I know David’s friend, who is also his masseuse, from when we were part of the Olympics team,” he said. “My head is still spinning a bit as we only landed back in England from Miami on Thursday night.

“We are all a little jet lagged because we have probably been around the world the equivalent of one and a half times. There has been a lot of travelling but is worth it for a great cause.”

The sides will be managed by two of the most respected and successful managers ever in Sir Alex Ferguson and Carlo Ancelotti.

Smith said: “It is a huge honour and I am absolutely ecstatic to be asked to be involved in a game of this magnitude.

“I’m expecting it to be a great occasion and for there to be a sell-out crowd. It should be a good game with a lot of good players and I’m sure one or two will let their hair down afterwards.

“But the most important thing is that it is for a great cause and is to celebrate the charity.”

Italian legend Pierluigi Collina, named FIFA’s Best Referee of the Year for six consecutive years during a renowned career, will referee the match.

“There will be a lot of famous footballers and managers taking part but I don’t think I will be nervous about the situation,” said Smith. “It is a huge honour to be involved with players of that calibre and to be in such good company.”

The sold-out match gets underway at 3pm. All proceeds raised through ticket sales and match-day donations will go to UNICEF to help protect the world’s most vulnerable children, helping provide care including protection, health and nutrition.