How the SAFC Museum proved so inspirational for 10-year-old Angel Herd

Angel Herd was inspired by her time at the SAFC Museum.
Angel Herd was inspired by her time at the SAFC Museum.

As a community project for those on Wearside and beyond, the SAFC Museum has inspired a great number of people.

But few can have felt the benefits more than 10-year-old Angel Herd.

Angel, back row centre, with mum Nicquina and sister Hannah, with Bobby Kerr.

Angel, back row centre, with mum Nicquina and sister Hannah, with Bobby Kerr.

The West Boldon youngster, who lives with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and is on the autistic spectrum, has often found life difficult.

However, her family credits a six-week stint working with the museum and founder Michael Ganley with putting her on the right track to a brighter future.

Angel, who attends West Boldon Primary School, was referred to Michael by a nurse practitioner.

She began visiting the museum – then based at the Sunderland Library and Arts Centre in Fawcett Street – on Saturday afternoons, working with Michael and his team.

I could not believe the change in her attitude and approach to reading, writing and maths

Niquina Docherty

As Michael reveals, she was learning all the time, without even realising it.

He said: “It was a way of Angel using her weekend time to explore a new route to learning, without her even realising she was learning.

“She really liked it, as not many children would care to do school work on a Saturday.

“We ended up doing things like basic maths, English, literacy and reading, as well as delving into football.

Michael Ganley is proud of the impact his SAFC Museum had on Angel.

Michael Ganley is proud of the impact his SAFC Museum had on Angel.

“She came on so much in her time with us.

“In the first session, her mum Nicquina stayed with us, but eventually that stopped and in the end, it was a struggle to get her to go back home.

“We built up a lovely relationship, and I envisage many other children and adults following suit.”

The Echo has thrown its support behind the museum in a unique partnership for the city.

Angel Herd wearing Sunderland goalkeeper Vito Mannone's match-worn shirt and gloves.

Angel Herd wearing Sunderland goalkeeper Vito Mannone's match-worn shirt and gloves.

Michael owns hundreds of thousdands of pounds worth of memorabilia, including match-worn shirts and medals, helping to bring memories flooding back for supporters.

As well as being a chance for fans to reminisce, those who were not alive during some of the Black Cats’ greatest days – such as Angel – are able to learn about the club’s history.

During her time with the museum, Angel met Bobby Kerr, captain of Sunderland’s victorious 1973 FA Cup side, and learned about the history of the club.

Immediately, she was attracted to the shirts worn by football icons such as Kevin Phillips and Wayne Rooney, and began to do literacy and numeracy activities based on what she discovered in the museum.

Michael coupled Angel’s passion for football with educational activities to deliver a service he and his charity are extremely proud of.

He added: “We all got on fantastically well with her.

Angel Herd alongside a match-worn Jermain Defoe shirt, and holding the boots he scored in against Chelsea last season.

Angel Herd alongside a match-worn Jermain Defoe shirt, and holding the boots he scored in against Chelsea last season.

“She’s a young girl with a real passion for football, and all sports in fact.

“To know that we have helped her is huge for us.

“We aim to deliver something educational in everything we do, and to see how we have helped her makes me very proud.

“She has also improved her communication so much, and got so confident that she would be mingling with people who were coming in and having a chat.”

Angel lives with mum Nicquina Docherty, sister Hannah, and dad Andrew Herd, and first visited the museum during the summer holidays.

Nicquina cays she “could not believe” how much her daughter has progressed.

She said: “I could not believe the change in her attitude and approach to reading, writing and maths.

“Previously, she had been reluctant to work with strangers and was uneasy being left alone without me.

“It was obvious after a short while that she was quite happy for me to leave her with the staff. She was so happy.

“She even told me that when she visited the museum, which was at the time in residency in the City Library, she considered that she was going into work.

“She loved meeting members of the public and helping them out.

“I cannot thank Michael Ganley and his team enough for the way that she was welcomed and made to feel at home.”

Angel Herd thoroughly enjoyed her time with the museum.

Angel Herd thoroughly enjoyed her time with the museum.

Angel Herd strikes Sunderland forward Fabio Borini's famous celebration pose.

Angel Herd strikes Sunderland forward Fabio Borini's famous celebration pose.