FORMER Swindon Town goal-scoring hero Andy Rowland, who is in hospital suffering what is believed to be a form of dementia, was overwhelmed at a fundraising night held in his honour.
Almost 250 people raised about £5,000 during a race night at the County Ground on Thursday in aid of Andy, 58, the club’s eighth highest all-time goal-scorer.
Andy, who has been in hospital for ten weeks, attended the packed, emotion-charged function at the Legends Lounge with wife Julie, 40, and their two daughters Megan, 13, and Holly, 11.
The ex-player, who appeared 345 times for Swindon between 1978 and 1986, scoring 98 goals, was clearly touched as he was greeted with applause and handshakes.
Attended by former Town players and staff, along with fans and friends, the event also served as springboard for a new organisation set up in the wake of Andy’s problems to help ex-Swindon stars who have fallen on hard times.
Yesterday Julie said: “It was a brilliant evening — a fantastic night. We had a lovely time.
“Andy was there and really enjoyed meeting so many old faces from the past. We really appreciate the huge level of support people have shown.”
Julie said that although Andy had short-term memory problems, he was able to chat with pals from his Swindon Town days and also from The Plough public house in Devizes Road, Old Town which they ran together before they had to leave as a result of his illness.
The event, which quickly sold out through word of mouth, was organised by former Town player and pub landlord Phil King and the club’s marketing and hospitality executive Adam Wain-wright.
Adam said: “It was an amazing night. There was a lot of emotion in the Legends Lounge. Everyone left on such a high. It reflected the esteem in which Andy Rowland is held by so many people.”
Phil, who runs The Dolphin pub in Rodbourne Road, Swindon said: “The buzz was amazing. I haven’t known anything like it at the club since the Premiership season.”
He said Andy could not believe everyone was there to support him.
“I told him that his goals gave so many people such pleasure that this was something of a payback.
“It was a great night for a great player and a great guy.”
Ex-Town players including Billy Tucker, Fitzroy Simpson and Charlie Henry, who either played with or were coached by Andy, attended the event. Andy’s former striking partner Alan Mayes was stuck in traffic at Silverstone but sent a message of support.
Last month, the Adver revealed that Andy had been taken to hospital after becoming progressively ill over the past year. He had been suffering problems with his memory and balance and found communication increasingly difficult.
As a result, Julie was forced to close The Plough and has moved with the children to her parents’ home in Croft Road.
After four weeks, Andy, who also served Town for a further 10 years in various coaching and managerial roles after hanging up his boots, was transferred from the Great Western Hospital to Sandalwood Court in Stratton for specialist treatment.
Julie said Andy’s condition was continuing to improve and that physically he was much better.
However, the future for Andy and his family remains uncertain. Doctors are continuing to monitor his progress and it is not yet known when he will be discharged or what treatment he will require when allowed home.
Julie said the money from the race night would help tide them over during a difficult period.