Lingard Solskjaer and Rob Allen

Lingard and Solskjaer meet heroic award winner

Friday 05 November 2021 11:00

Pride of Britain award winner Rob Allen was surprised by Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and midfielder Jesse Lingard during a recent visit to Carrington.

Rob, a lifelong Red, was invited to our training ground alongside his team-mate Ross, for his inspirational work in founding Sands United; a network of football teams where men who have lost babies and young children can come together to grieve.

Mr Allen originally thought he was at the training ground to do a piece on what United meant to him, but Lingard and Solskjaer crept up on him while he was talking to the camera to tell him he had won the 2021 Special Recognition award, before presenting him with a shirt that had ‘Pride of Britain 21’ printed on its back. 

The quartet then took to the training pitches for a kickabout where Rob discussed more about the work he has done as founder of Sands United. 
Jesse and Ole had the chance to meet with Rob (left centre) and Ross (right centre) recently at Carrington.
Rob and his wife Charlotte devastatingly lost their third child Niamh, who was stillborn, days before her due date in 2017. They were helped through their loss by the stillbirth charity Sands, but at one meeting, Rob counted 24 women and three men.

Realising that grieving dads were finding it difficult to reach out for help, he organised a charity football match to raise funds for Sands, while also giving men an opportunity to come together and talk about their loss.

“I found the support group is not something people want to go to mentally,” Rob explained while speaking to Lingard and Solskjaer.

“You think it’s everyone sitting in a circle saying, ‘my name is Rob and I’ve lost a baby’. We kind of flipped it around and thought why not come and play football?

“Generationally, we don’t talk about things openly, how we’re feeling, we bottle it up and bury it.” 
The one-off game, featuring bereaved fathers, grandfathers, uncles and brothers, raised £6,000, but the emotional benefit for the players was even more significant. And so, Sands United was born, and entered into a local league in Northampton.

But Rob’s impact has spread far wider. Inspired by his example, there are now more than 30 Sands United teams across Britain. Each team’s kit is embroidered with the names of the babies they have lost, and hundreds of men, and their families, have been empowered to open up about their loss, and support each other through sport.

Oliver Earby, 27, who lost daughter Minnie, said: “Men don’t talk about it down the pub. But once you open up you realise you are not the only one going through it.” 

And Jake Bull, whose daughter Olivia lived for just an hour, said: "It has really helped me open up. The club has given me my confidence back.”
The quartet discussed the work of Sands United during a kickabout at our training ground.

Rob’s trip to Carrington was shown during ITV's broadcast of the ceremony on Thursday evening, before he received his award at the Grosvenor House in London, presented by England captain Harry Kane, goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, and former Lioness and broadcaster Alex Scott. 

Upon hosting Rob at our training ground recently, Solskjaer said: “It’s a pleasure and an honour for me and Jesse to meet him first of all, and just hear about what he’s been through. It’s quite touching. 

“To be part of a team is the best-ever feeling when you’re feeling low.”

You can find out more information on Sands United here

Everyone at Manchester United would like to congratulate Rob on the award for his empowering and inspirational work.