By Weekend Editor Graham Chalmers
For sports fans in general and football fans, in particular, it’s simply the event of the year. In two weeks’ time, leading pundit and ex-England footballer Danny Mills will welcome a host of celebrity TV and radio commentators to Sporting Truths, a charity event he’s co-organised at the Royal Hall in Harrogate.
As befits his topflight status in the world of commentary and pundrity, the line-up for ex-England footballer Danny Mill’s forthcoming Sporting Truths event seems to be getting bigger and more exciting each week.
Joining the ex-Leeds Utd star will be Match of the Day 2’s host Mark Chapman, as well as a glittering line-up of special guests all aiming to provide a boldly honest insight into the reality of modern sport.
The proceeds will go to partly to Shine, the spina bifida charity he has supported since the death of his third child Archie from the condition four months into his wife Lisa’s pregnancy in 2002.
Organised by Mills in conjunction with the go-ahead team at the rejuvenated Harrogate Theatre, this celebrity-packed BBC Radio 5 live style event at the Royal Hall in two weeks’ time will also include the following:
MoTD2 pundit Mark Lawrenson, BBC Radio 5 live’s Darren Fletcher, ex-Leeds Utd and England keeper Nigel Martyn, paralympic champion Josie Pearson MBE, ex-England footballer and manager of Hartlepool United Colin Cooper, ex-Scottish keeper Neil Sullivan, ex-Premier League forward Paul Dickov, ex-Everton footballer and articulate footballl pundit Pat Nevin and former referee and Sky Sports regular Dermot Gallagher.
It’s a formidable line-up as any Mills, who lives in Harrogate with wife and family, was ever part of during a lengthy and eventful career as a top-flight combatative right-back from 1995 to 2008.
Despite great success on the pitch, his last years in the game were plagued by injury, though football’s loss has proven to be to TV and radio punditry’s gain.
Danny said: “Until I was 27 I never missed more more than two games on the trot. I’d been quite lucky then Dennis Bergkamp did me in a tackle at Highbury and broke my leg.
“It wasn’t the end but I was out for six months. I came back and got another injury and was out of the game again.”
Sentimentality doesn’t last long at the rarefied levels Mills was operating in.
The club is always bigger than the player and, despite the glory games and England caps, he found himself loaned out to a succession of other, lesser, clubs.
And that still wasn’t the end of it, not by a long shot.
“I had two operations. I was seeing the best specialists in the world. I was back, I was out again.
“I spent two years in rehabilitation, trying to get fit again, getting the train every day up and down to the physio, doing six-to-eight hours a day in the gym.”
Eventually, one person’s simple gesture spelled the journey’s end.
“I got a shake of the head from the surgeon in London. I was 32. I realised to carry on struggling could wreck the rest of my life in terms of me walking.”
Mills now believes the nature of his retirement from the high-intensity world of football was all for the best in a way.
“It helped to have a slow comedown. It let me know what it felt like to be retired before it even happened. I also wanted to see my family growing up.”
Although a sudden change of direction was inevitable, his current high profile position as a leading football pundit was by no means a foregone conclusion.
He said: “I fell into the punditry almost by accident. I’d already done a bit for the BBC while I was a player.”
Which is where Mills combination of experience, intelligence and a certain blunt honesty possihly gave him the edge in the competitive world of broadcasting.
There are plenty of players who might like to be on Match of the Day or BBC5 Live but few of them have succeeded like Mills.
And Danny, himself, is well aware of the environment he is working in and how lucky he is to have made it.
“It’s a great life but you have to work hard. Lots of players are asked for their opinions these days. It’s like any other job.
“You have to learn constantly. You listen to what other pundits are saying, you ask for feedback on what you’re doing.”
While other pundits may treat softly on controversial issues. the hardnosed Mills tends to tell it exactly as it is.
On Gareth Bale’s world record transfer fee of £85.3million when he moved from Tottenham Hotspur to Real Madrid at the start of the current season, Mills pulls no punches.
“You can look at it in two ways. A player is only worth what someone will pay for him. Bale has massive marketing appeal.
“He’s clean living, clean-cut. Real Madrid can sell that across the world.
“On the other hand, is he worth that money as a player on the pitch? Is he better than Ronaldo or Messi? ”
It’s that sort of remark that makes the prospect of Mills’s Sporting Truths charity event at the Royal Hall such a mouth-watering prospect for sports fans.
That and the incredible line of guests.
The evening kicks off with entertainment from comedian Ian Moore
The evening will conclude with a grand raffle featuring prizes including exclusive sporting memorabilia, amongst other luxury lots.
Sporting Truths takes place at the Royal Hall on Thursday, November 14 at 8pm.
Tickets are available at Harrogate Theatre Box Office on 01423 502 116. or online at www.harrogatetheatre.co.uk