I met the Queen when I was 19.
At the time she was visiting St. James Park, the hallowed ground of my hometown team Newcastle United, to meet with a selected group of young athletes from across the North-East. Alongside fellow team-mate Aaron Hughes, I was lucky enough to be chosen to represent Newcastle United’s youth system, a real privilege that I’m still incredibly grateful for.
It still seems a bit surreal. I remember her asking me about where I grew up, what it was like to play football for my hometown club and when I’d be breaking through to the first team – everybody says there’s a wry sense of humour beneath her crown, and they’re not wrong.
Looking back at her 90 years and time as Britain’s longest reigning monarch, it’s incredible to think that anybody could lead in such an esteemed position for so long.
I later found out that her Majesty was actually one of the first heads of state to challenge conservative attitudes and embrace technology. She was the first to request television coverage for public appearances (against the stern advice of Winston Churchill) and even the first British monarch to send emails, as early as the 1970s!
In many ways Elizabeth II is our first digital Queen, which makes me even more proud to have met her.
And, of course, it makes for a nice story to tell the grandchildren…