Ashley Young helps to restore one fan's faith in "humanity"

Sports Mole speaks to Rob Booth, who has had his wish for his terminally ill father to watch Manchester United one more time granted by Ashley Young.

Today's Premier League footballers are often accused of being disconnected from the supporters who worship them.

Gone are the days when player and fan would converse and analyse each match down the local pub, as the security at training grounds and stadiums make claiming an autograph near impossible. Manchester United winger Ashley Young has moved to bridge that gap, though.

The England international, who even splits opinion among the Old Trafford faithful due to the perceived ease in which he hits the deck, last night used the social networking site Twitter to offer a dying fan the chance to watch United in action one last time.



John Booth, a lifelong supporter of the 20-time champions of England, was diagnosed with stomach cancer two years ago. More recently, the doctors informed the 58-year-old father of five that he had months rather than years to live.

The devastating news prompted his eldest son, 36-year-old Rob, to do all that he could to provide his dad with the opportunity to visit Old Trafford before he passes away, and in luxury.

Mr. Booth's ill-health means that he can no longer sit on the terraces, particularly after he was rushed to hospital from the ground just moments before United took to the pitch against Newcastle United last Boxing Day.

Having enlisted the help of fanzines such as Red News, Rob set about trying to acquire a private box so that his father and his family could watch a match in comfort. His plea ended up on Twitter, which captured the attention of Young.

"I'm overwhelmed by all of this. In these circumstances, you try anything possible. The power of social media hey?! I wasn't even on Twitter, but I'm in the process of setting an account up to say thanks to a few people. The boys at Red News are the ones that tweeted it on my behalf. I received a call earlier today from one of Ashley Young's management company," Rob told Sports Mole this afternoon.

"I'm a former season-ticket holder myself and I can sometimes get tickets for matches through some of the forums, but this was a real special request because my dad is just too frail to sit out on the terraces. It was one of those were I was hoping a positive would come from the face of adversity, but I never in my life expected a response from one of the players!"

Ashley Young celebrates Manchester United's win over Manchester City on December 09, 2012.© Getty Images

With the wheels now in motion, has Young's actions altered the way that Rob views not just the 28-year-old, but also the modern-day player?

"As a kid, my dad would take me to The Cliff (United's old training ground) before a game. You could go in and get open access. I remember meeting the likes of Mark Hughes and Bryan Robson, real heroes of mine. I've got a lad of 15 now and we get to a few games and we make a point of going to Carrington to try to get autographs - hardly any players stop these days," he said.

"My brother, who is also 15, met Young when England trained at The Grove. He signed an England shirt for him, so for me personally, I've always been impressed by Ashley Young. I've been completely blown away by it. His management company did indicate that [Young] would like the opportunity to meet my dad and hopefully we will get the chance to meet a few of the other players as well. From a player perspective, I'm 36 now so I won't be in awe of them, but all the kids will be starstruck, which is great.

"It has restored my hope in people and for people to tweet it on my behalf, especially those from Red News who don't know me, they've gone out of their own way to do that, it's amazing. Ashley Young will be the one that takes the credit for this and rightly so - he's donated something. But it is also about the community of people and it's restored my faith in humanity really.

"Cancer affects one in three of us, but my old man is one of the most positive people I've ever known. I told him earlier about this and he couldn't even speak, he was so emotional. He wanted to do the Route 66 as part of his bucket-list, but he can't. So I've told him I can do the Route M6 for him! I'm proud to be able to do this for my dad."

Manchester United's new signing Marouane Fellaini in action against Crystal Palace on September 14, 2013
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