Jamie Carragher, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Conor Coady are a powerful force when they get together and not just in the Sky Sports studio or on the pitch.
The trio exchanged the Premier League for staging a star-studded charity gala bash at Manchester’s Emirates Old Trafford cricket ground on Thursday to raise £350,000 for disadvantaged young people.
It was a power-play from Liverpool legend Carragher and the team behind the crusading charity Football for Change.
The red carpet was heaving with the great and good of English football and showbiz in a testament to the pulling power of football and its ability to make a difference.
Actors Claire Sweeney and Ryan Thomas, and Love Island’s Jacques O’Neill were among those spotted rubbing shoulders with Coleen Rooney, former Manchester United player and coach, Michael Carrick, ex-Liverpool and Real Madrid winger, now pundit, Steve McManaman, and TV personality Vernon Kay.
Despite playing a key part in the development of Football for Change and the gala evening, which is supported by MailOnline, Alexander-Arnold and Coady missed out on the party because they are on duty with England, preparing for the Three Lions encounter with Italy on Friday.
‘It is not easy for people right now,’ Carragher told Sportsmail from the red carpet outside Old Trafford. ‘It is never easy for kids from a working-class background.
‘A lot of ex and current players up and down the country are coming together recognising we are fortunate and creating a charity to make a real difference. I am sure if anyone was in our position they would give back, too. We have to give back, particularly with the state we find the country in at the moment.’
Carragher is the chairman and the energy behind the organisation, which is building a high-profile movement – and a considerable pot of money – to help youngsters in deprived areas into jobs and education.
There is a constellation of football stars signed up, including Borussia Dortmund and England midfielder Jude Bellingham, who was also away with the national team, but also Everton’s Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Carragher’s Sky Sports colleague, Gary Neville.
Aston Villa boss Steven Gerrard and England’s Euro 2022 winners, Beth Mead and Toni Duggan, plus Spurs’ Lucas Moura and MOTD pundits Alan Shearer, Peter Crouch and Gary Lineker are all supporters.
And the ‘do’ itself featured Noel Gallagher with his High-Flying Birds, while Melanie C performed an individual set.
Meanwhile, stars lined up to donate stunning raffle prizes, the top lot being an all-expenses paid trip to the US to watch David Beckham’s Inter Miami.
There was a backstage experience at BT Sport with Steve McManaman, breakfast with Everton boss Frank Lampard and a meet and greet at Robbie Williams’ at his homecoming show.
In the first lot to go under the hammer, an Epiphone Les Paul guitar signed by Oasis legend Gallagher fetched £30,000.
The whole show was compered by Kay.
‘Football is something everyone follows,’ Kay, an avid Bolton Wanderers fan, told Sportsmail. ‘It’s played in so many communities. Jamie has brought all these people together.
‘I am amazed it has not been done before, a football charity on this scale. So many stars are here to support this.’
Football For Change has already raised £350,000 through a celebrity lunch and then a dinner, held at the Titanic Hotel in Liverpool last November, so the running total is now £700,000.
Football has a poor reputation when it comes to money. Record transfer spending of £1.9 billion in the latest window, as the shadow of a cost-of-living crisis spread across Britain, was uncomfortable.
But the attitude of the players and ex-pros lining up to help Football for Change is refreshing.
Under the leadership of Carragher they see a chance to use their own good fortune to help others.
They are lending their names and their hard-earned; there is no angle.
‘We want to help children who are may be underprivileged to get some support in their life,’ said Coady on a video played to the guests. ‘This is massive.’
Football for Change is homing in on young people in deprived areas, who have found themselves neither in education or training. The idea was sparked in the Covid pandemic lockdown, when youngster became increasingly isolated.
While the initiative began in Liverpool, it aims to spread out across the country, with the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, one of many fans. The Football for Change Gala will soon be on the road.
The charity is already funding a life-changing project for 40 young people, who travelled to the US for a sport and education programme, a training scheme for homeless youngsters, and a new education hub for young people in Bootle.
Across the country, 711,000 young people aged 16 to 24 currently find themselves in that position with well-founded fears that the cost-of-living crisis and an economic downturn is about to make life even harder.
Among 16-17-year-olds, the most recent figure for so-called NEETs nationwide is 64,720, of whom 1,950 live in the Liverpool City Region. Two hundred of those youngsters have been identified in Sefton, the area where Carragher grew up.