Belfast Telegraph

Ex-Liverpool icon Steven Gerrard called grieving Northern Ireland family

Robbie with partner Nadine and son Jack
Robbie with partner Nadine and son Jack
Rangers boss Steven Gerrard
Leona O'Neill

By Leona O'Neill

The heartbroken mother of a Liverpool fan who took his own life has told how a phone call from her son's hero Steven Gerrard meant the world to her.

Robbie Fleming died in June last year.

The 26-year-old pizza chef always dreamed of meeting the former Reds skipper with his nine-year-old son Jack.

Mum Alison said that after her son's death she was determined to part fulfil that wish, and on Sunday the Rangers boss made a video-call to Jack, and also promised to meet the entire Fleming family in Liverpool in the coming months.

"Robbie was an absolute Liverpool FC fanatic," Alison said.

"His hero was Steven Gerrard. After Robbie died I took to social media to see if I could get in contact with him."

The Liverpool Echo picked up the story and ran an article at the weekend.

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Alison added: "Steven Gerrard then contacted them to say that he was very touched by my story and asked for my telephone number, and he said he wanted to personally give his condolences to me.

"So, on Sunday, my phone rang. It was a 'no caller id' number. And it was him. He said it was Steven Gerrard.

"I could hardly talk for shaking and crying.

He said to me 'please don't cry', because I was going to set him off.

"He told me that Robbie's story had really touched him and made him very emotional.

"He said that he wanted to meet us all in person and give his condolences, but in the meantime he wanted to speak to Jack.

"Ten minutes after he hung up with me he Facetimed Jack. He talked about Liverpool, asked about him being off school for the summer and told him that he was trying to get him over to Liverpool to come and meet him and get pictures together.

"Jack was just over the Moon. His face was beaming. It was priceless."

Alison said the conversation was an emotional one for her, but that she had been determined to have the star hear Robbie's story.

"It meant the world to me to speak to him," she added.

"I just wanted to make my boy proud and I wanted to make his name known to Steven Gerrard.

"I have done that and I have cheered my grandson up.

"His dad's dream was for him and Jack to both meet Steven Gerrard.

"But Robert never got that chance, so I was determined to part fulfil it."

The last football match Robbie ever watched with his Liverpool-mad family was their 2018 Champions League final defeat to Real Madrid in Kiev.

Alison said watching the team win last month's Champions League final in Madrid, when they beat Tottenham 2-0, was poignant.

"It was very, very emotional for us. We broke our hearts. Especially when they won. The last match we watched with our boy was the Champions League when they got beat and he cried sore.

"Since Robbie was a child, every time Liverpool scored he would run to his daddy Vernon and hug him.

"The score was 2-0 to Liverpool, so that was two big hugs Vernon missed. That was hard. All that me and his dad and his brothers Jordan and Jamie could do when they won was hug one another, and say that 'they did it for you son'."

Robbie died last summer after battling depression.

Alison said it came "out of the blue".

"He was so lovable, he would have helped anyone," she said.

"You wouldn't have thought he had a worry in the world. He had a lovely partner, lovely son, good job and a lovely home. He had everything.

"It leaves so many questions. The biggest one is why? And it will haunt you until your last day."

On the day the family had to say their final farewell, the crowd inside and outside Ronnie Thompson's Funeral Directors in his native Lisburn was a sea of Liverpool shirts.

His coffin was taken out to the strains of You'll Never Walk Alone.

Alison said that in the wake of the funeral the "Liverpool FC family" had been a tower of strength.

"Robbie had been going to Anfield since he was a child with his dad," she added.

"Then he would have taken little Jack with him.

"We have been passing down that love of Liverpool through the family. Jack asked his mum Nadine the other day if 'she will be daddy and take me to the Liverpool games?' It's heartbreaking."

The Robbie Fleming Memorial Day will take place on Saturday, July 20 at the Lower Maze Social and Recreation Club in Lisburn. For more information see the Robbie Fleming Memorial Day Facebook page.

◊ If you or anyone close to you is affected by issues in this article, contact the Samaritans free on 116123 or Lifeline on 0808 808 8000.

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