An all-star charity match featuring Darren Barr, Alan Gow and other Falkirk fans’ favourites is being held at the Falkirk Stadium on Sunday.
Stephen Manson, who was a youngster at the Bairns back in the earlier 2000s and made his debut coming on for Russell Latapy in a match against Queen of the South, is inviting some old team-mates, family and friends along, hoping to raise funds and awareness for Scottish Autism.
It is estimated that over 50,000 people in Scotland have autism and it is a cause which is close to Stephen’s heart after his son Oliver (5) was diagnosed with being on the spectrum last year.
Stephen (33), who also played with Berwick Rangers, Raith Rovers, Sligo Rovers, Linlithgow Rose and Tranent, told the Falkirk Herald: “I work in pensions at Scottish Widows, my wife Amanda is doing a nursing degree at Edinburgh Napier but Oliver is probably the smartest in our household.
“He is an incredible little guy. He can function on three or four hours of sleep, he just wants to constantly learn. He sees the world differently but I wouldn’t have him any other way.
“I must admit I never knew anything about autism before Oliver was diagnosed and I suspect a lot of people don’t until it becomes part of your life.
“We’re constantly learning and if we can help raise funds and awareness to help other families and children affected then that would be great.”
The players involved in the Autism All-Stars match include the likes of former Falkirk strikers Darryl Duffy, now at Stirling Albion, and Gow, who recently made a bid to buy the club.
Also featuring is ex-Bairns defender Darren Barr and attacker Kieran McAnespie, while former Falkirk boss John Hughes has been invited along to help with the trophy presentations.
Oliver is the Scottish Autism mascot and will walk out with the players in their special autism-supporting kit, before taking to the centre circle and kicking off the exhibition match.
The gates open at 12.30pm and there will be family-themed entertainment on the day. The match will kick off at 1.30pm with donation buckets at the gate and in the stadium during the game.
Stephen, who is set to do a 10,000ft skydive at Strathallan for the charity next month, says he is keeping his feet firmly on the ground with the football project, but hopes that the charity match can be an annual event which some day Oliver can be playing in himself.
He said: “We’re just looking to reach as many people as we can and hoping people will come along and help support the charity.
“It’s something that just fell nicely together with being a footballer and raising funds for autism.
“We spoke to Kieran Koszary at Falkirk and he has been great giving us use of the facilities and pitch, Jamie Lewis at Casra Sports are providing the strips and we’ve got a couple of sponsors lined up too.
“There’s already been a bit of banter flying about in the WhatsApp group, I was Kieran McAnespie’s boot boy at Falkirk and he has been winding me up about making sure I’ve got everything organised for him on the day!
“I think everyone is looking forward to it and it should be a great day and hopefully we can raise money for a great cause.”