Should you know much about me, you’ll be aware that I’m a huge football fan. Massive. I’ve loved it since the first match I watched on Television (Dundee United vs Roma, UEFA Cup Semi Final, 1984) and I’ll talk about it at any chance I get, usually turning the subject around to my beloved Leicester City.
Last campaign was the first since my early teens that I didn’t have a season ticket to watch City, because in recent years work as a comedian has kept me away from Leicester on Saturdays. For the uninitiated, as a comic you’re often marooned in a hotel somewhere in the UK for a whole weekend, left desperately filling time as best you can. I am not very good at this, so can often be found just wasting time sleeping in my car once the Travelodge has booted me out, or watching a film that I never wanted to see in the first place (probably starring Tom cruise, and I HATE him).
I have also voluntarily taken myself far away from the city of my birth by moving to Wales to be with my fiancee. She’s ace, and allows me to have Sky Sports, but I do miss the buzz of watching a game every weekend.
So I’ve had an idea.
Every Saturday afternoon from September until the end of the season, I’ll go and watch a football match close by to where I’m performing that evening. If by a strange quirk of diary I’m not working, then I’ll still seek out a football match. Then every week I’ll write up my experiences here, and (fingers crossed) hopefully release the whole thing, unabridged and with photos and extra stuff as a book when the season concludes.
The seeds of this idea were sowed a year ago when I was passing by Swindon on my way to working in Bath, and sought out my friend Ivo Graham (currently wowing audiences in Edinburgh at the Fringe). We watched Swindon draw 2-2 with Coventry, and it was one of the best afternoons I’d had in ages. Football, visiting a different stadium, experiencing sitting in the popular end of a club that wasn’t Leicester, pies, Paulo Di Canio virtually having a seizure – the day had it all. And now, I want to do it again. Lots.
I have set myself a few rules, however.
1: No Premier League games. First off, I’ve been to every stadium in the top flight anyway, but I want to experience football on every other level. There’s no lower limit, and I’ll be honest and say that I want to go and see a fiercely contested FA Vase game in the middle of nowhere if that’s where my travels have taken me.
2: No visiting the same place twice. For example, I gig in Bristol a lot. So if I’m there four times during the season, I can’t go to Ashton Gate four times – especially when there are a load more places for me to visit nearby.
3: Whatever ground I visit, I must make the home team my own for the day and support them as enthusiastically as I possibly can. Even if it ends up being Coventry or Forest.
4: I must sit or stand in the “popular end” of whatever stadium I visit. No prawn sandwich brigade for me, nor taking freebies from clubs. I want to pay my money and go through the turnstile with proper fans.
5: This is the hardest one. I must not, even if I end up being in the same town as them at the same time, sneakily watch Leicester City. I don’t think that’ll help me learn anything about the so-called “Beautiful Game” – and there’s a fair chance that I’ll end up miserable before my gig in the evening.
Them’s the rules. With those in place, it’s time for me to start looking at my diary and some fixture lists and making some plans. Every Saturday is up for grabs, and at the moment my gig diary is nicely full – there is only one exception (I cannot work on November 9th due to personal commitments) and I’ll keep updating it as and when gigs come in for 2014. Check out my diary page here.
I’ll also be looking for people to hang out with me at games. Sometimes they’ll be the comics I’m working with that weekend (me and Paul Pirie once had an excellent afternoon watching Rochdale vs MK Dons), but I’d also like to hear from superfans and supporters clubs who are willing to have a heavily tattooed comedian hang out with them on the terraces and enjoy, for one day only, supporting their club. So if you see that I’m headed your way (or you happen to be a publisher interested in the final book), please get in touch.
I’ll announce on Twitter every week the game that I’m planning on taking in that weekend, so make sure you follow me on there if this is the sort of sport-based daftness that you’ll enjoy.
I’ll put the match reports / experiences / travelogues up here and on my actual website too, so you can read them and hopefully smile.
I’m really excited about this! Spread the word if you see fit, and I’ll probably bump into one or two of you somewhere out there in football-land.
AMENDMENT: 16th September
I’m really enjoying this so far, three games in – and I’ve realised that the odd diary clash will mean that I can’t always go to a game on a Saturday. I’ve also realised that I really want to watch even more games, fill in the odd Tuesday here and there and experience as much as I can. So my little project has been changed from being called “It’s What Saturdays Are For” to “The Football Neutral” because it’s way easier to remember!