A tweet this morning made me chuckle, and reminded me of my own school days in Bracknell and a lonely supporting of the Robins, while everyone around me supported Manchester United or Chelsea (pre-Abramovich).
It was this:
“Dad, all of the children in school who like football support Chelsea. None of them like Bracknell like you do.”
— Mirko Bolesan (@mirkobolesan) February 3, 2014
I was wondering how the rest of you started following the club? Whether it was just coincidence, or actively seeking out the place on a Saturday afternoon. Then I got stuck on a train and wrote the following…
I was a lone supporter of the club at school in my early teens after my dad, always looking to save a few quid spotted that Swindon Town were coming to town for a friendly.
Knowing that I had been to see the other Robins with a mate and his dad, I think mine (not really a football fan to this day, though he watches Bracknell most weeks) decided it was an easy and cheap way to take his boys to football.
I imagined in my mind a grand stadium like I saw on tele at Italia ’90, or at the least something similar to Aylesbury United’s old Buckingham Road ground that was such a feature of my 1991 Road to Wembley FA Cup video that I wore out.
I don’t remember my first impression of Larges Lane, I know now that entirely depends on your perception. When the club was a couple of leagues higher it was seen as ‘worst ground in the league’. Now we are in the Hellenic, it’s one of the more palatial and pleasant.
What I do remember from those early days – I was hooked pretty quickly, was the half- time chips smothered in sauce, the amusement watching Ritchie Moore bash mud off his boots on the post every corner and the smell of cigar smoke from the late great Jack Quinton.
I think it’s that smell I remember the most, it was glorious and really gave the stand me and my dad stood in by the tunnel an atmosphere.
Probably somewhat ironically I’ve never touched a cigarette or cigar in my life.
I used to proudly take my programme into school the next day, I don’t know how many other kids got to go to live games, but I and my mate were going to every home game and it was brilliant.
I remember next to nothing of the football in those days. I know we were quite good in 1992 after years of being rubbish. We won the old Diadora (now Ryman) league division 3 and almost got to the first round of the FA Cup – which would be reality just right years later.
I remember four FA Cup replays against Kingsbury Town in the days before penalties were introduced. They may well have been godawful draws each and everyone but I remember feeling like it was a case of ‘next goal wins’. If I’m ever in charge of the FA I would definitely bring back infinite replays.
I drifted away from the club during my later teens, hanging out with mates combined with the team again becoming a bit rubbish meant I wanted free Saturday’s.
I got drawn back in about a year before the famous FA Cup run and have stuck with it since then. All through university, admittedly only in Egham, I’d baffle people when I said I was going to football.
Chelsea? Arsenal? They’d enquire. No, Bracknell I’d respond.
Coach trip for an away day to Taunton? No problem. Boys day out skiving off lectures to have a few beers in Worthing? Done!
It is a bit more difficult to replicate those feeling for kids these days. Everywhere they look they are smacked in the face with Sergio Ageuro, Gareth Bale and Lionel Messi.
I’ve nothing against the Premier League or it’s clubs, I just feel a bit sad when a kid decides to support Manchester United or Arsenal without the slightest hint of familial or locational link. I confess I was a Spurs fan for a bit, largely due to the above mentioned FA Cup video, but I soon lost interest.
I can imagine for a kid coming up to Larges Lane these days is a massive disappointment. I know it was for me and I’d only been exposed to Swindon’s County Ground.
I hope though, that when parents bring their kids up to our club, or any of the others in the local area, they’d realise it’s so accessible. You can get involved as much or as little as you want.
I’ve met some brilliant people, some who will be lifelong friends and discovered my mother really likes football to the extent she texts me with scores to games I’m not watching.
I’ve got my dad to thank for all this though. It’s his fault you’ve had to read all this way, but I hope it might just encourage you to visit your local football club.