The 'supporters in the spotlight' this week are the Lansley family, as their story of following the club is told alongside the extremely sad loss of Carli Lansley, wife to Karl and mother to Jessica and Ethan, and the foundation set up in her memory...
Many supporters will be familiar with the circumstances surrounding the tragic passing of Southend fan Carli Lansley at only 36-years-old on 1st June 2017.
Carli died in her sleep from Sudden Arrhythmic Death Syndrome (SADS), leading to a foundation being set up in her name to provide free cardiac screenings for young people aged 14 to 35 in the Southend area by her husband Karl and children, Jess and Ethan.
It was my pleasure to speak to Karl recently about his role within the Carli Lansley Foundation as well as his, Carli, Jess and Ethan’s time as Shrimpers…
"Ethan was five in 2015 and had shown no interest in football, only his cars and Disney films really and like most dad’s, I wanted him to enjoy the game, so suggested I take him to a match with me. He wanted to go to a Premier League fixture but the cost of a trip like that and the thought that he might not like it anyway, made me think it might be a good idea to go to a local match first and see how it went.
"We decided to go and see Southend play a pre-season game at Dagenham and Redbridge and he really enjoyed it, so much so that after getting home when he excitedly told Carli all about the day, both she and Jess said that they would like to come with us next time we went. I wasn’t sure to be honest as both of them had never shown any real interest in football before.
"We all then went away on holiday to France but on our return, bought tickets for the game against Swindon at Roots Hall and although it would be fair to say it wasn’t the most exciting game ever, they absolutely loved it and said they all definitely wanted to go again.
"We became regulars after that and it became a real family day out, buying tickets weekly at first before becoming season ticket holders in the West Family Stand the following season, where we still sit now.
"As time went on, we started to become more immersed in the club, getting to know some of the players as the kids became interested in collecting their autographs at games and other events such as 'Meet the Blues Day' which made us start to feel even more connected, even more so when Ethan started to become a decent little footballer himself and joined Adam Barrett’s Academy.
"Carli’s passing in June 2017 came as a terrible shock to everyone. Most especially as she had always been fit and well previously to that. She just went to bed that night and never woke up. During the time immediately afterwards, we learned of the existence of the charity CRY (Cardiac Risk in the Young) when they got in touch with me, initially to offer support for Jess and Ethan.
“At the start of 2018, Carli’s mum and aunt decided to run a charity event to donate money in her name to CRY, which was really successful. They asked me to help them with this but so close to Carli’s death, I was still not in the right frame of mind to start getting involved in anything of this nature at that time.
"When Carli’s headstone was laid in the February, it was a terrible time and brought everything back really badly. I knew then I could not just sit and let things take me down even further, and I decided to take the opportunity to get involved in the fundraising and with the money we raised, we requested that CRY hold a screening day in Carli’s name. This actually took place at Roots Hall and was a great success. The club gave us the entire run of their executive boxes free of charge and over 100 people attended during the day. The charity was very impressed and I loved the fact that my club were involved and wanted to help.
"It was around this time too that I sat Jess and Ethan down and said that as mummy won’t be there anymore, we don’t have to still go to the football if you don’t want to now. They were both adamant they wanted to carry on going however. My friend Darren took over Carli’s seat and he still sits with us at games to this day.
"Just before the start of the 2017/2018 season, then Commercial Director Danny Macklin got in touch with us to ask if the kids would like to be mascots for the opening game v Blackburn Rovers. Not only that but Rhys Ellingham also contacted us to invite Jess and Ethan to model the strip at the kit launch too, along with Dru Yearwood, Michael Kightly and Ted Smith. Both of which were wonderful gestures by the club that were greatly appreciated by us all.
"Our fundraising activity for CRY continued to grow and raise so much money that I came to realise we should start to look into starting our own charity. After a lot of hard work, “The Carli Lansley Foundation” was set up in the Summer of 2018.
"As I would regularly see Adam Barrett when taking Ethan to his academy to be coached, I approached him in regard to being a patron of our charity. Adam, being the sort of guy he is, was delighted to accept.
"Local author Ellie Irving, who was at school with Carli and singer/songwriter Emily Frith, who has sung at Roots Hall before games, also accepted our invitation to become patrons, as has Jason Demetriou, who I spoke to at a Junior Blues awards night. All of them bring great credit to our charity, support us fully in all our endeavours and we are delighted to be associated with them.
"Other past and present Southend players have supported us since the establishment of the charity. Mark Oxley and his wife came with Jason and his wife to one of our curry nights, last season. Adam arranged with Ryan Leonard (through the Millwall connection) to meet Jess, Ethan and myself for a chat and to take some photographs that he then re-tweeted to further publicise our charity to his followers. John White, Luke Hyam, Harry Kyprianou and Lewis Gard all took part in a bucket collection before a match for us last season too.
"We have an online event on Carli’s birthday (a cuppa for Carli) every year on 22nd September where people take a photo of themselves drinking a cup of tea and post it up online, which is something Brandon Goodship (who’s birthday it is too) was involved with also.
"Before the lockdown we were hoping to hold a charity football match involving several ex- Southend players (including Steve Tilson and Adam Barrett) and once some sort of normality is restored again, we will hopefully be able to arrange this."
Karl, who is a member of the Shrimpers Trust Board and actively involved in the Southend United Ex Players Association, sat down with Ethan and Jess to pick their favourite XI from their time watching the club –
GK - Daniel Bentley
RB - Elvis Bwomono
LB - Ben Coker
CB - Adam Barratt
CB - John White
RM - Jason Demetriou
LM - Stephen McLaughlin
CM - Ryan Leonard
CM - Anthony Wordsworth
CF - Noel Hunt
CF - Jack Payne
"We were gutted to leave a few out (Nile Ranger, David Worrall, Taylor Moore, Adam Thompson, Charlie Kelman). Some positions were dead easy (Bentley, Coker, Leonard) and we obviously couldn't leave out the patrons.”
Anyone who wants to find out more about the Carli Lansley Foundation or more importantly would like to get themselves (or a member of their family checked) can e-mail: email@example.com, visit www.carlilansleyfoundation.org.uk or go via the Facebook page - @inmemoryofCarli or Twitter - @CarliFoundation
The final word goes to Karl himself – "We may be 92nd in the league (at the time when published in the Mansfield programme) and some may scoff at us for being Southend United fans, but this club has some amazing things about it with so many good people wanting to give something back to the community. We look forward to the links between Carli’s Foundation and the football club continuing to grow and indeed, now going from strength to strength in the future."
Dedicated to the memory of Carli Lansley – 22nd September 1980 to 1st June 2017
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