Friday, 20 March 2009

Was Brighton now Stoke: Man and boy

If you walk into any bar and announce you've had relationships with a number of different women, you're likely to be listened to, admired perhaps; hell, they may even buy you a drink. Walk into the same bar and announce that you've supported two football teams and the same new 'bessie mates' are likely to chase you down the road. I suffer from the latter, and I mean it when I say 'suffer'. I dearly wish that I could apply the monicker 'man and boy'. But I can't. As a boy I supported Brighton and Hove Albion.  As a man I support Stoke City.  

At least I must be in a minority. How many Albion fans shifted allegiance to Stoke?

It all started when my family moved to Sussex in 1975. I am so proud to have supported the local team. I saw them promoted at Newcastle in May 1979. All this has recently been brought back to me by reading Peter Ward's autobiography

I was at many of the games described in the first half of the book. I emailed Peter and the writer Matthew Horner to say that no one needs to write a biography of my life. I'd just read it. I remember Brighton losing away to someone like Preston and crying in bed until about 8pm one Saturday night. I was really into it. 

Yet, reading that book, I realised the exact point where I started losing interest in football. It was just after the Liverpool away game in the 1979-1980 season. I remember going to the last game of the season, at home to Everton, knowing we were leaving the area, and thinking that that period of my life was closed.

Ten years later and I was dragged back into football by two things: the world cup 1990 and my brother-in-law's support of Stoke.  I had been to a couple of games. But I went to see Stoke V Chester in early 91. Stoke quickly went down 3-0 and were something like 13th in the 3rd Division. 

The Boothen End started singing for a Chester FOURTH goal, and I realised at that moment that Stoke was the team I was going to support for the rest of my life. So I'm not Stoke, born and bred. More, adopted.

I had a out-of-body experience in 2002 when Stoke were promoted at the time when my son was going into hospital. Things bind you.

The funny thing is, reading that book about Brighton and Hove Albion from 1975-1980 has made me fall in love with Stoke City even more.