The lot of an exiled supporter is an isolated one. Not for us popping into the club shop whenever its open or sharing pleasantries in a supermarket checkout queue with a key club person. Our lot is to travel and travel and travel some more. Often accompanied by nagging questions like “why am I doing this?” or “why does BP take more money from me when I’m supporting my club than my club does?”
Like a variant on the old football joke “they never come to see you when you’re bad”, exiled supporters are mightily pleased whenever their team arrives in their locale, regardless of their playing fortunes at the time.
Famously or infamously, I live in Halesowen on the Southern edge of the Black Country (not Birmingham), some 50 miles distant from Edgar Street. Fellow exile Commander Frank of Radio Hereford FC fame is also a Halesowen resident. We both took great pleasure from the Hereford FC Academy team playing games across the Black Country and tried not to snigger when “it’s a long way up here” was overheard among the visiting young players.
The dream was always the Hereford FC first team visiting the blues of Halesowen. Frank and I enthused during various podcasts about the simple pleasure of Bulls supporters taking over our local pubs (aka the Radio Hereford recording studio), impressing the locals and in return enjoying Wye Valley beers (yes, they’ve been educated and influenced). How mine hosts would beam with excitement and count their takings. We’d spoken of a roving radio mic and how Halesowen Town were sure to be impressed with the size and passion of our following. More pragmatically, how Frank and I could have several pints pre and post-match without worrying about driving. Halesowen is a new ground for most supporters and many of the players. Admittedly, Josh used to play here as an 18-year-old quite often with WBA reserves. Probably our skipper and fitness coach too.
You know where this is going, don’t you? After years of hoping and waiting, Hereford FC announce they will visit Stourbridge (just 3 miles away) and Halesowen Town (almost literally on my doorstep). Their turnstiles are 113 steps from my front door. A walk of just over one minute. My first thought was unprintable to be fair. My second was “how can I get in?” I genuinely watched both clubs last season. Hereford far more often of course though the Yeltz were in terrific form and well worth £7 admission when I could walk those 113 steps. I even thought about using my step ladders. Seen those in operation before when their fans were boycotting.
Thankfully, the FA recently clarified their clarification and in theory you can now go to the ball. It’s the law of sod that I’ve booked a` holiday that week, never imagining for a moment that the Bulls were travelling towards me for a change. Halesowen Town are a well-supported side, so much so they have announced the imminent ending of season ticket sales lest they sell more than their enforced capacity. Their 400 person limit is only 20% of their capacity. Pre-season, season ticket holders will get first chance to purchase (handily, already tracked and traced) with tickets left over going on open sale. There may not be many visitors gaining entrance. This is not the dream fixture I imagined. Maybe next season?
By Simon Wright