Jock Gardiner and Bob Bain, both well-known businessmen in Aberdeen, will take on the challenge this July to raise funds for the Aberdeen Football Club Heritage Trust, of which they are both charitable trustees. Between them they have attended thousands of Aberdeen FC matches over the last 45 years, and the funds raised from their journey will be used to create a museum and learning centre at the club's proposed new Aberdeen Stadium. Donations will be accepted through the AFC Heritage Trust's JustGiving page, accessible at www.afcheritage.org
Bob says, "Aberdeen Football Club has a strong connection to the Highland League. Many players start their career in the Highland teams before 'graduating' to the Premier League with Aberdeen. Likewise, many former Aberdeen players choose to play out the final years of their careers in the Highlands. It's fantastic to be able to highlight that vital link and celebrate all it has afforded both Aberdeen and the Highland League teams."
Jock adds, "As trustees of the AFC Heritage Trust, it's important to us to celebrate the history and legacy of Aberdeen FC and its players. And what better way to recognise the club's connection with the Highland League than by visiting all 18 clubs in one day?! We hope that by making this pilgrimage to Highland stadia, we can highlight the amazing history of Aberdeen FC - and its Highland League connections - in order to raise much-needed funds for the AFC Heritage Trust museum and learning centre project."
Starting at Cove Rangers' new Balmoral Stadium, the journey will take Bob and Jock 547 miles through the Highlands, snaking their way through some of the country's most stunning scenery to end up at Wick Academy FC's Harmsworth Park. On their journey, they will visit each of the 18 Highland league grounds on a specially-planned route.
By all accounts, Jock shouldn't be an Aberdeen FC fan. He says, "My parents are both from Edinburgh - half the family supported Hearts and half Hibs, but from a young age my affections were always for the Dandy Dons. "My favourite team as a child growing up in the Lake District was Manchester United, so when I moved to Scotland I started supporting Aberdeen - as they played in the same red-coloured strip. My favourite Man U players at the time, Martin Buchan and Denis Law, also hailed from Aberdeen. "I used to travel up to see the Dons play as much as I could on the East Central 1903 supporters bus, and when it came time to apply for university there was really only one choice for me - the Granite City, just so I could see Aberdeen play at Pittodrie every second week."For Bob, his memories of visiting his first football matches at Aberdeen's Pittodrie Stadium are as vivid as his most recent. He explains, "I attended my first Aberdeen game in March 1974. I can still remember the excitement of stepping out onto the South Terrace, as it was known then, and watching over the heads of the crowd as my dad held me up high. From the moment I first stepped into Pittodrie I fell in love with the club.
"Since 1975, when the Premier League was founded, I've only missed 22 first team home games - none voluntarily - and I've also been to a large percentage of the away games over the years. I'm an Aberdeen die-hard through and through - there's no doubt about it."
Part of the trip is sponsored by independent accountancy firm Hall Morrice, of which Bob Bain is managing partner. Transport for the trip has also been supplied by Eddie Morrison of Morrison Motors, Turriff.
Follow Bob and Jock's journey on social media using the hashtag #AFC18in18. For more information about the AFC Heritage Trust, and to donate to the JustGiving page JustGiving/AFCHT where you can add GiftAid, or visit www.afcheritage.org for a link to PayPal.Thank you fellow Dandies.