Ben Nevis walk by Borders football hero John Collins and brother Norrie helps get op appeal for injured Gala Fairydean Rovers player Ben Herdman past halfway mark

A bid to raise £8,000 to pay for an op to get injured Gala Fairydean Rovers defender Ben Herdman playing again has passed the halfway mark, thanks in part to a sponsored walk up Ben Nevis by Scotland football hero John Collins and his elder brother Norrie.

By Darin Hutson
Friday, 12th November 2021, 11:36 am
Ex-Scotland football international John Collins on his way up Ben Nevis to help raise funds for an op appeal for Gala Fairydean Rovers defender Ben Herdman (Photo: Norrie Collins)
Ex-Scotland football international John Collins on his way up Ben Nevis to help raise funds for an op appeal for Gala Fairydean Rovers defender Ben Herdman (Photo: Norrie Collins)

A crowdfunding appeal launched by team-mates of Herdman’s, club officials and well-wishers last month is now 55% of the way to its target, having raised more than £4,400.

That total was boosted by ex-Hibernian and Celtic midfielder Collins, 53, and his former Rovers player brother, 59, walking up Scotland’s highest mountain on Wednesday.

That hike took the pair five hours to complete but was well worth it, said Norrie, a committee member at the Galashiels club.

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Gala Fairydean Rovers committee member Norrie Collins on his way up Ben Nevis to help raise funds for an op appeal for their defender Ben Herdman (Photo: John Collins)

“It was a great experience,” he said.

“We’d been waiting for good weather and we got it. It was nice and clear until we were about halfway up, then it was cloud cover for the second half of the walk up, but it didn’t rain hardly and it wasn’t windy, so we can’t complain.

“We did it in five hours, which isn’t bad going for a man of my age.

“We didn’t hang around as my little brother’s quite impatient and wants to keep moving. He just likes to keep going and get things done rather than stopping for breaks.

Gala Fairydean Rovers defender Ben Herdman going off injured during their game against East Stirlingshire in July (Photo: Thomas Brown)

“He just wanted to get it done and get home as he feels the cold pretty quickly, but that was a good thing really as you never know what the weather’s going to do.

“The views lower down were great – lots of lovely autumnal colours – but we couldn’t see much higher up as it was too misty.”

That was the fifth time the father of three, of Denholm, has been up the 4,413ft-tall mountain in Lochaber, selected because it’s a namesake of right-back Herdman, and the second time he’s been accompanied by his younger brother, capped 58 times for Scotland between 1988 and 1999, but the last time before that was over a decade previously.

“I thought it’d only been two or maybe three times but now I think about it, that will have been the fifth,” he said.

“We’re halfway there now with the appeal and there are some more things planned, but we’d just like to say thanks to everyone who’s donated so far and point out that there’s still plenty of time left to donate.”

His younger brother, now of East Lothian, recorded a video message for Herdman at the summit, the club ambassador telling him: “We made it. We’re thinking of you. Let’s get that operation booked in and get you back down on the park at Netherdale, where you’ve been badly missed.”

Herdman, 24, sustained an injury to his left knee just five minutes into Rovers’ first game of this Scottish Lowland Football League season, a 3-0 home loss to East Stirlingshire in mid-July, and he needs surgery before he’ll be able to rejoin his team-mates on the pitch.

It’s uncertain how long he’d have to wait for surgery to fix his torn anterior cruciate ligament and medial meniscus at a National Health Service hospital but it could be years rather than months, due to the backlog for operations being caused by the coronavirus pandemic, and that’s why an appeal is now up and running to try to raise enough money to pay for a private op expected to cost about £8,000.

If any surplus funds are raised, they will be donated to the Scottish Association for Mental Health.

Herdman, of Kelso, is hoping the appeal proves successful as he’s eager to get playing again but he’s all too aware that he’d still face a wait of about nine months to return to full fitness after such an op.

This is the second time the defender, at Netherdale since September 2015, has sustained an ACL injury, the last time being six years ago to his right knee, leaving him sidelined for a year and a half.

Telling of his frustration of missing out on this campaign after getting injured so soon into it, he said: “It’s literally the season I’ve been most ready for, which is the worst thing.

“Pre-season I was absolutely flying, probably the fittest I’ve ever been as well, and then I lasted five minutes into the first game, which was brutal.

“At the moment, if I’m just walking normally then the leg is not too bad, but work is not easy. I can’t do everything I normally can. I just try and do what I can.

“For the private operation, I have inquired with Spire Murrayfield Hospital in Edinburgh. That’s where I got the rough price from.

“That’s the closest place to here so that’s where I’d be looking at but I’m going to look at other places to see different prices. I need to get a consultation, though, and then get a date.

“I just thought I’d see how the funds go first and go from there.

“It is nine months after the operation that I can look to be playing again, so the sooner I get the operation the better, so I can get back playing.

“It’s brutal not being able to play. The worst bit is going to games, watching and thinking you could be playing but it’s going to be a long time until you are.

“The team are doing really well. It’s just rubbish that I can’t be a part of it just now.”

Herdman, a joiner by trade and wildlife artist on the side, has also raffled off three of his pictures to raise funds, the winners being Jennifer Cook, Morgan Grieve and Allan Tait.