The Gintlemen, Adrian: The R Word

This week Adrian reflects on one of his first loves. Football. 

No not redundancy, nor radish but RELEGATION, I have been a fan of Stoke City for as long as I can remember. I believe I was offered a choice in my younger years of either supporting them or leaving home to fend for myself, which as a wide eyed innocent six year old can attest, it seemed better to keep the roof over my head, and I was so in to stripes it was uncanny.

I remember my first game, I was clueless, I knew we played in the aforementioned striped shirts, I knew that it was traditional to have a pie, and a Bovril (irrespective of the weather), but I was unaware of the offside rule, had no clue who our players were, and the noise! 
Stood in the closest to a family area that the late 1970’s offered the football fan of the day, the game unfolded before me.  I was however mesmerised by this moving sea of faces to my right, they appeared to all be connected, and because of that, if one pitched forward, they all pitched forward. If the left group sang the right group sang too, it was magical, hypnotised. I didn’t even know what some of the words meant, what I did work out was that it looked like fun, and well as a 11 year old I should be allowed to try it out immediately.
 Sadly due to circumstances that I have absolutely no idea about it would be a full 6 years before I attended the Victoria ground again, no longer under the supervision of a parent, I used to spend my Saturday afternoons in a haze, as part of that moving mass of home fans, with our rude word songs, our own version of Tom Jones Delilah, and an identity that sticks with us to this day – not always a positive one either, but I’ll leave that for another time.

My first relegation was my first season back as a fan at the Victoria ground, didn’t really matter much. The next 5 years was a blur, after the birth of my daughter in 1995, I kind of expected us to tumble, we didn’t disappoint, welcoming the blue team from Manchester to the Britannia stadium for our final game. I was on holiday so didn’t attend, but my journey to Disneyland Paris in 1998 was made more fun because I had to sit next to a Man City fan ALL the way on a cramped coach.

I started taking my daughter in 2005, she witnessed in a few years: an FA cup semi and final, promotion to the premier league, European football, and us beating some of the countries best teams, until this last season, when we again tasted the bitter pill of falling out of the top tier. I’m not going to lie, it’s a hard thing to watch, especially when you can see it happening, and no matter how loud you shout at anyone it kind of just happened.

I’m lucky I suppose that everyone has been so unsympathetic in the house, reminding me about it, or when you pop out for a drink. I’m sure we will rise again, I’m sure we will fall as well, it matters, and is why I wished I could see the game through the eyes that first saw the beautiful game all those years ago!

Adrian Weeden Official randomizer to the royal family of Burkina Faso

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