On the 28th of April 1994, two rugby enthusiasts bore a child, into a humble, yet middle class background from Oxfordshire. Now 16 years on as my father begrudgingly drives me to football matches, both for the team I play to Molineux to see the mighty Wolverhampton Wanderers; I wonder if it is really possible to embrace the culture of being a football fan of a team who’s followers have such a different background to myself, and whether all the obstacles I must overcome in order to be a true fan can really be overcome.
I have always been the outcast in my family, the different one, the boy who liked football. When I score the winning goal for my football team and all I can see in my dad’s face is “their shorts are far too long,” It can really be a demoralizer. The first time I asked my dad for a season ticket it was like I had just told him I was running off to marry a fifty two year old sex offender, his face went a pale white colour and his knees began to shake, and in true Gillian Mckeith fashion, he toppled to the ground (slightly exaggerated perhaps.) His dream of me playing hooker for London Wasps was gone within the blink of an eye and all he was left with was a boy looking to emulate his boyhood hero, not Lawrence Dallaglio or Jonny Wilkinson, but Jody Craddock.
Let me first explain why I support Wolves, whilst my dad’s family are entirely against football, my mother, who herself is from Wolverhampton has some football blood in her, as her father is a devout wolves fan, so when i chose a team back when i was a wee lad, it was a toss up between Wolves, at the time a relegation bound premier league side under Dave Jones, with Paul Ince pulling the strings from midfield, and my local side Wycombe Wanderers. Christmas 2004, my Granddad bought me my first Wolves shirt, and two tickets for me and him to see my first game, and my mind was made up. Indecently I still remember the game well, It was Bolton at home, a 2-1 defeat, I believe Henri Camara scored for us, and being a part of that crowd during that moment was one of the greatest feelings I’ve ever felt. I knew now there was no turning back, I was addicted to football.
Being from where I am, a rural Village in Oxfordshire makes being a fan of Wolves tough, two hours to drive to a home game is too much for my dad, and a season ticket is far too costly, so I have to make do with every time my Granddad has a spare ticket, which to be fair used to be quite often, I’ve never quite understood how he got them, he seemed to know every single person that had ever been to Molineux, so I’d be able to make about 10 trips a season, plus a few away games in London when I’d saved up my pocket money.
But I’ve never felt truly accepted; at school I couldn’t talk to all the glory supporters discussing who would do the best in the champions league (I never get that, how can you truly experience highs without feeling proper lows, when the worst thing that can happen is going a few years without a major trophy; a promotion to the premier league feels so much better when you know what it feels like to be beaten 6-0 at home to debt troubled Southampton,) or with the Wycombe fans, discussing their countless nearly moments of trying to get into the promised land that is League One. It is only with my best friend, an avid Watford supporter that I can ever have football banter with, as every year, aside from our respective seasons in the premier league I would look forward to the Watford game so I can gloat about my team’s tiny superiority thanks to what was most likely a goal from a long ball up to Chris Iwelumo.
In Wolverhampton too I feel out of place, like an armchair supporter, not by choice, but because I simply cannot get to games that often, my middle class accent prevents me from getting involved with some of the banter, and the chants always sound a bit different coming from me. Can a true fan ever be taken seriously when he doesn’t hail from the catchment area in which his team play? Is it really possible to be a true lad with such mitigating circumstances? are there any other armchair fans out there who wish they didn’t have to be? Why oh why could my parents not have been pie guzzling, shirt off Geordie, or knife throwing London gangsters? I am stranded without a footballing identity, I just cant wait until the day I can move up to the Midlands and become the fan I so desperately long to be.
Football has made me the runt of the family, football has made me the kid who never shuts up about Wolves when nobody is interested, football has made me the posh boy of the terraces. Yet still I love it.
And of course when Wolves score all divisions are off at Molineux, the man next to me who things I am too different to be a wolves supporter and I embrace, sharing that one thing that binds us together, a mutual love of football, and at the end of the day, isn’t that the most important thing about football?
Whether I have an identity in football or not, I have a love of the game, and love for my team.