Rovers were delighted to give a young Swansea City supporter a memorable matchday experience at the final game of the 2018-19 season, recognising the wonderful support she offers to her older brother and his footballing ambitions.
At just seven years old, Lottie McNally has become a vital part of the fantastic operation at Bootle Bucks Inclusion FC, who recently provided the opposition for our Community Trust's first ever disability football representative fixture.
She has become a key motivator for her older brother Adam, nine, since he joined the Bucks last summer, and not only has she become something of a 'mother' figure - even to older players in the squad - she has also won hearts and minds by fundraising for Little Princess Trust, as well as volunteering to cut her hair short to donate her previously waist-long locks to help create wigs for children suffering with cancer.
As a result, when Blackburn heard about her achievements through contacts at Bootle, she was invited on to the Foster's FanZone stage before the Sky Bet Championship fixture at Ewood Park on Sunday - joined by brothers Adam and Josh - and given the chance to confidently read the Jacks team news to a large crowd outside the Blackburn End.
The young star received a deserved round of applause and cheers for her efforts before she and her family were given a behind-the-scenes tour of Ewood Park by Rovers staff.
John Callaghan, coach at Bootle Bucks Inclusion FC, explains why Lottie is so special to their club, which supports youngsters with a variety of disabilities and offers them the chance to enjoy playing football in a safe and structured environment. He said:
"When Lottie arrived, like every child we meet, we wanted to know if Lottie had a challenge in her life and how we could help her. What we discovered was the exact opposite - a seven-year-old young lady who was there to help her nine-year-old brother and make sure that he was enjoying himself to the max and that he was motivated.
"Lottie’s brother Adam joined our club around May 2018 and it was obvious that he had good ability and that he really enjoyed his football. He quickly made friends, but in the background sometimes his challenges raised their ugly head and life felt a little difficult for him. Occasionally he just didn’t want to play football and wanted to stay at home.
"Lottie loves her brother dearly and she really is his ‘little big sister’. She was having none of this and told Adam very forthrightly that he had to go to football and not only did he have to go, she was coming with him to join in and make sure everything was OK, to give him support and confidence and to keep that lovely smile on his face.
"She has developed a real sense of understanding towards the challenges that lots of young boys and girls suffer. She is a terrifically sensitive young lady and has a habit of just ‘being there’ for people when they are upset or worried and her little eyes flash and an arm goes out to help. It is a wonderful gift for one so young to have. A fall, a bump, a kick... Lottie is there."
Lottie's connection to her family's community club is clear to see, but given that the McNallys are based on Merseyside, her connections to supporting a club in South Wales are a combination of an unusual influence and a positive connection between a Swansea City supporters' group and the organisation that her brothers represent.
Callaghan continued: "Through our relationship with John Heycock and the Port Talbot and Exile Swans [a group for Swansea fans living away from the club's immediate catchment area], a lot of us here at Bootle have adopted Swansea as our second team. One afternoon, we all noticed that Lottie had turned up for training in a Swansea kit and asked her mum ‘why Swansea?’.
"It turned out that when she was a lot younger, she shared her ‘Match Attacks’ cards with Adam and she liked the look of Swansea and decided there and then that they were ‘her team’. She has followed them ever since and like us, the Exile Swans fell in love and decided to ‘adopt’ Lottie.
"Although she may be just seven years old, she has the aura of a dignified young woman and one that I, as a friend, are proud to know."