Travelling back from Gillingham on the opening day of the League One 2015/16 season after Sheff United lost 4-0, fearing that he would never see his beloved Blades in the Premier League again, James Kemp made a promise that he had to honour a lot sooner than he originally thought: “I actually thought seriously that there was no way we were gonna get back in the Premier League and actually said out loud that if we ever did I would cycle to every away match.
“And thanks to Chris Wilder, thanks Chris... that we’re now up there, I’ve got to do what I said and I’m doing it as well for the Children’s Hospital which does help me and makes sure I get this thing done.”
Fundraising for the Sheffield Children’s Hospital has definitely helped James on his travels so far: “a few weeks ago where I was cold, I was wet, I got about sixty miles to go this particular day and I did think about the kids that were in there poorly and especially as well, the parents that were obviously going through hell looking at the kids being poorly and then believe it or not all of a sudden I didn’t feel wet and I didn’t feel cold so psychologically that does definitely get you through.”
Six away games into the season, with a hefty Christmas period on the horizon for both United and James, he admits it is not going to be easy: “its going okay, its obviously gonna get colder, its gonna get wetter, may even get snowy, frosty, so I know there’s worse to come.
"But if I can get through December, January’s a bit quieter anyway with the games, so I think December, if I get through December then I’ll start coming out the other end and start getting a bit more excited.”
With coverage from local radio, BBC Sport and now Vavel, James is massively grateful for the support he is getting from everyone who knows of him and his story: “The support I’ve found at the moment, the support from the home teams or the away grounds that I’m going to has been absolutely phenomenal.
“Watford in particular were an absolutely class act, they left me a signed shirt, left my bike in the actual office of their ground, they were absolutely class.”
The Blades fans have also not held back in support of one of their own: “when I cycled for example through Earls Court and all the Blades were outside the pubs and they saw me, I got my own song ‘Blade on a bike’, that just makes your hairs on the back of your neck stand up.”
Asking if things like that drive him onto a second wind, the boyhood Unitedite was certain in his answer: “It honestly does and you just don’t think of any pain, you’re not tired anymore, seriously, I’ve never felt this before but when you’re getting that backing off people it really does help. So I just ask people to keep shouting out and it does help.”
James then talked about what his aim is come the end of the fundraiser: “At the end of the fundraiser when I get to Southampton I’ll obviously be very very delighted, I’ll be very emotional, I’ll be absolutely shattered. At the end of this I wanna raise as much money as I can, that’s the target.
"I've set myself a target of five grand. I will raise five grand, even if I have to put five grand in myself.
Callum finally asked him what the benefits of his fundraising might be: “But what it might do, it might facilitate getting something at the hospital which will make them smile perhaps, make life a little bit easier for the parents.
"That’s all I can hope really is that we can put a smile on the kids faces.”
James is keeping a blog of his journey this season and is planning on releasing a book telling his story, with the proceeds going to the Sheffield Children’s Hospital!
You can donate to James’ just giving page at - http://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/James-kemp1889
Or follow his story on;
Twitter - @jameskemp
Facebook - James Kemp
Instagram - Jameskemp51
And if you see James on his bike when your team hosts the Blades this campaign, be sure to give him a cheer!