On Thursday, the 37-year-old royal was chatting with a former guardsman in Liverpool who was telling him about how he joined the national service in the 1950s — and being on sentry duty (which involves preventing the passage of unauthorized persons) at the palace gates.
Kenny Davis, 82, told Prince William that when he signed up for the army in 1956, he was told to go down to London. “I hadn’t been down that neck of the woods before. Well, there were these steps and I was told to allow anyone out…but not to let people in,” the former Coldstream Guard told the prince.
“It is a dodgy area,” quipped William, who was chatting to an elder support group hosted by Everton Football Club’s community. He told Davis, “The Coldstreams are going strong. You left them in a good state.”
William was meeting some of the older residents of the area around the Premier League soccer club who go to the club’s Stand Together meeting as part of a day highlighting the work done in the community, especially on mental health.
Moments earlier, he was handed an old-fashioned rattle that fans would use to make a racket at matches. Dating from the 1950s, it had the same claret color as William’s favorite team Aston Villa. “Can I take it to Wembley?” William asked, turning the wooden instrument. His team are playing favorites Manchester City. “We’re going to need a lot of these,” William said.
Charming the older residents and younger school kids, the prince (and president of the Football Association) was in his element talking about the sport with locals and international players on the afternoon at Everton.
William started his visit by joining children from the Springwell Park Primary school in nearby Bootle as they played “emoji bingo” — a game that uses emojis to help kids identify how they are feeling.
Sitting with the blue team along with former England international Theo Walcott William, William turned to one youngster and said, “It’s very competitive.” And pointing to a happy emoji he told a little girl, “Same as your smiley face.”
“How do you guys feel most of the time? Do you get anxious?” he asked. When one little girl said “tired” the royal dad replied, “Yes, me too.”
He was then urged to go and join the other table — the red team — and feigned disappointment to the group around him, saying, “I don’t want to pull away. I’m just going to go over to the winning side, okay?”
William was at Everton in the Community, a stone’s throw from the club’s Goodison Park stadium. It is famously very close to the ground of Liverpool FC, just across the city’s Stanley Park.
“I knew the stadiums were close – but didn’t realize just how close,” he told some of the club’s players, including star forward Dominic Calvert-Lewin, defender Seamus Coleman and Everton and England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, as he met them to talk about his Heads Up mental health project.
Later, he sat down with some military veterans who had been playing with the first-team stars. They are supported by the club through its Everton Veterans program. He heard about the anxiety and depression that some of them faced and their struggles to adjust to civilian life. “Does the military do enough to prepare you for the civvy life?” he asked. And when the answer came back as “no,” William — a former army officer and RAF helicopter pilot and future head of the British armed forces — said, “I agree with you. The bit I have always found difficult is the skills you learn in the forces don’t translate into civvy life. We can get better at translating these skills.”
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And he praised the men who attend the group as being the “recce team” for those who might follow them. “You can see who’s in the community and falling through the net.”
“It’s not just about the football, it’s about the camaraderie,” Dave Curtis, the project leader told him about the benefits of the group.