Three Football Clubs and a Funeral

I wrote this in January 2012 for another site but I’m transferring everything to one place so apologies to anyone who’s already read it.

My friend and brother-in-law died suddenly from a brain haemorrhage just over a year ago. I could write an entirely different piece about him because he was a very interesting man who made the world a better place, not least because he did great work in opening access to higher education up to people from disadvantaged backgrounds. I’ve been thinking a great deal, though, about a small aspect of his life to do with his love of football.

Keith was an Ipswich Town fan for decades. Born in West Suffolk, he moved to a village just outside Ipswich when he was a small boy. He was lucky, in that he was a Town supporter during the club’s glory days and saw the F.A. Cup Final victory over Arsenal in 1978 and the home leg of the UEFA Cup Final win over AZ Alkmaar in 1981. Work took him to live in Devon though, and although he was a Town fan until the end, he became disenchanted with what was happening to football with the advent of the Premier League, like many of us. He started to go to watch his local club, Exeter City and after a while, he and his mate Andy joined the Exeter City Supporters’ Trust.

I think he enjoyed watching the football at St. James’ Park, he certainly enjoyed the lack of commercialism and he was definitely attracted to the fact that the Supporters’ Trust own the club. He also had the very great pleasure of watching the last days of Marcus Stewart as a professional footballer.

Here’s a link to the Grecians’ Supporters’ Trust website: which explains the constitution and how they own the club.

When Keith died, he had a non-religious funeral in Exeter and one of the people who spoke was his fellow Supporters’ Trust member, Andy. Andy was from Norwich and as much of a life-long supporter of City as Keith had been a Town fan. He spoke very movingly about his friendship with Keith, their heated discussions about their teams in the pub, their shared love of the game and their equally shared hatred of the way that football seemed to be heading.

Many supporters of Ipswich Town and Norwich City won’t be interested in the Exeter City way of doing things. It probably isn’t exactly the right model for either club to adopt. City’s success probably means there isn’t much appetite for change at Carrow Road and the prospect of eventual success (looking increasingly delusional, in my humble opinion) for Ipswich Town probably also means few ITFC supporters would be interested either. It would, for a start, mean we’d have to forget the idea of playing with the big boys for a long time to come.

The last time I went to Portman Road with Keith, we beat Bristol City 6-0. He left the ground beaming. None of us knew that it would be his last visit there. I wish that he was still here for lots of reasons. He’d still be a Town fan but a very disgruntled one. And he’d still be a member of Exeter City Supporters’ Trust.