Charlie Daniels have become one of the first British footballers to sign up to Juan Mata’s Common Goal project under which participants donate a 1% of their salary to charity. Blakely, Daniel's daughter, was born 24 hours before her dad was trending on Twitter.
It has been a busy couple of weeks for the 31-year-old since, with nappies to change and his role in Mata’s project engendering plenty of goodwill, including a message from the Manchester United midfielder, who said: “Thank you so much for joining, and let’s try and grow this charity.”
Eddie Howe, Bournemouth’s manager, pulled Daniels aside 24 hours after the Common Goal announcement, on the morning of the 2-1 victory at Stoke City, to congratulate him for “supporting a good cause”, and friends, family and the wider public have also been quick to applaud his gesture.
“I like to think it’s more for the charity rather than me,” Daniels says, reflecting on all the attention of the past fortnight. “It’s nice that people are giving me all this praise but it’s something that just felt like the right thing to do and the easy thing to do. Bobby Bowry, my agent, was the person who alerted me to the Common Goal scheme and once I read a bit about it, it was something that I really thought I wanted to be part of.
“No one else knew that I was signing up. I was going to talk to most of the Bournemouth lads about it, but I had a baby daughter the night before so I was a bit preoccupied. But as soon as the news about Common Goal came out, everyone was asking about it, wanting to know what they can do, and hopefully more can join up.”
Alfie Mawson, the Swansea City defender, is the other English player to have signed up and it is easy to see why Jürgen Griesbeck, the Common Goal chief executive, described the pair as “perfect additions”. Both have played in all four divisions, showed a combination of perseverance and self-belief to get to the top, and earned a reputation along the way for being decent, down-to-earth people as well as talented footballers.
“It’s probably thanks to my family and friends that I’ve grown up this way and joined the charity,” Daniels says. “My mum and dad were very good during my upbringing. My dad was in the army so he was very influential on the way I should act in society and around people – how I conduct myself. And my mum was very big on education when I was growing up, getting my qualifications before I became a footballer, just in case. A combination of those two is probably a big reason why I’ve been so successful.
“I’ve also had a tight-knit group of friends for a long time, probably since I was six or seven. One was at primary school with me and one lived on my road, they’re my real close friends. There are a few others as well and they’ve been a really big part of what’s happened and never let me get carried away. I’m not Charlie Daniels the Premier League player with them. I’m just Charlie – and they let me know it as well. It’s just nice to have friends like that who see you for who you are and not what you are.”
Some will probably wonder why more Premier League players have not followed Mata’s example by getting behind a project that is supporting 120 organisations that use football for social change across 80 countries. Daniels hopes the numbers will grow but the last thing he wants to be seen to be doing is putting his peers under any pressure.
“A lot of people have their own charities that they’re affiliated to,” he says. “For example, here at Bournemouth I know Asmir Begovic has his own foundation and Harry Arter, obviously with what happened [his first daughter was stillborn], does things for his charity. So this isn’t something I’d force people to do. I’d like them to be drawn towards it rather than being pushed into doing something. But hopefully loads more do come on board.”
Daniels admits his outlook on life has changed since becoming a father for the first time two years ago, in particular when it comes to the emotions he feels whenever watching anything on television to do with children suffering. Yet he also makes the point he believes he would have wanted to be part of Mata’s initiative if it had been around a decade ago, back in the days when parenthood was a long way from his mind, money was a lot tighter and he was playing in the lower leagues for Orient. “I don’t think it would have been that well publicised if I was a League One or League Two player,” he says. “But I still like to think that I’d have joined up.”
He smiles when he thinks back to his time at Orient, remembering how he gave Andros Townsend a lift to training one season and Harry Kane the next. “I knew kind of who ‘H’ was before. But I knew Andros more – I took him a few times because he couldn’t drive. H’s mum and dad lived around the corner from where I was at the time, so I used to pick him up when he joined Orient. Even then you could see how good he was. He didn’t have the physical stature that he has now but his finishing was top quality and he scored some important goals for us, even as a 17-year-old.”
Daniels has a deep affinity with Orient because of the part they played in launching his career and says he feels “great sadness” when he looks at where the club is now – languishing in the lower reaches of the National League after losing their Football League status last season. He had already been at Orient on loan before joining them permanently in 2009 from Spurs, where the arrival of a talented teenager, who played in the same position as him, led to a conversation with the manager about his future.
“I went to see Harry [Redknapp] because they’d signed Gareth Bale,” Daniels says. “I’d tried as much as I could to get into the first team at Tottenham, had a couple of loan spells and decided it was the time to go. I had a whole season on loan at Orient the previous season, really enjoyed it and didn’t have to move [home] because they were my local team.”
Daniels moved on to Bournemouth in November 2011, when they were in League One, and has been an integral part of their remarkable progress, making more than 200 appearances across seven seasons spent in three different divisions. His rampaging runs down the left flank have led to eight goals and nine assists in the Premier League, including that extraordinary strike against Manchester City in August that won him the goal of the month award.
Could it be goal of the season? “Maybe. I don’t think you can beat a half-volley off the bar but we’ll see,” Daniels says.
“It was a nice strike, I can’t deny it, and definitely the best of my career. When you connect like that, you don’t feel the ball hitting your foot, it just shoots straight off. When it hit the bar and then the inside of the side-netting, I went a bit crazy.”
That was a personal highlight in what was has been a difficult start to the season for Bournemouth, who head to Newcastle on Saturday looking for the win that could lift them out of the bottom three. Not that Daniels sounds like a player who is worried about a relegation scrap. “The manager we have here will never be happy with just staying in the Premier League,” he says. “Every season that I’ve been here we’ve finished higher than the previous one and it’s something that we look to do at the start of every season, to progress and get better. We haven’t started as well as we’d hoped, but there’s a long way to go and hopefully we can match or even do better than last season.”
As for life off the pitch, Daniels is excited about watching the Common Goal project grow and already thinking about not just handing over money but also travelling to see some of the children whose lives it could help to change for the better.
“I’d like to do that,” he says. “For me it was about contributing and being part of it. But if I could go out there and see the charity work, to see what they’re actually doing, that would be absolutely fantastic.”
The Guardian Sport