Football…love it or loathe it? I find myself in between the two camps. My father loved all sports and would ardently watch sport on TV and go to football and cricket matches. I haven’t really inherited his passion. I like football but if my team lose I don’t spend the week depressed and if they win I’m not on cloud nine for the rest of the week. My team now is “Leyton Orient“ ( I have to write it on the board for my Georgian students, who haven’t heard of this team),an allegiance forged in the eighties when I was living in East London and many football fanzines were taking off. Before then my team was Tottenham Hotspur, chosen in my schooldays to be slightly different from my classmates who liked Leeds, Chelsea or Arsenal. I have only actually seen Leyton Orient play three times.
Now I am in Tbilisi, the local team is Dinamo Tbilisi, in 1979 they beat a good Liverpool side 3-0. Now, Dinamo are a shadow of their former selves. I’ve seen them play twice, firstly, against my first football love, Tottenham. Tottenham were a class apart and thrashed Dinamo here in Tbilisi 5-0. The second time I saw them was in the Europa League Play Offs and they lost 0-3 against Greek side, PAOK Salonika. I’ve seen eight goals at Dinamo Stadium, none of which have been scored by Dinamo.
The first proper match, I ever saw was at Wembley, the Amateur Cup Final between Walton and Hersham and Slough Town, in April 1973. I went with my cub scout pack 3rd Slough. I don’t remember much about the game, I remember Wembley seemed enormous. Slough lost 1-0, in what was the last but one final. It was discontinued after the 1973-74 season, when the FA abolished their policy whereby all clubs were officially considered to be either professional or amateur in status.
I have only been to fourteen matches since:
- QPR 3-1 Tottenham. 2 March 1974. Division one. I sat on my dad’s shoulders for a lot of the match, so I could see. Martin Chivers scored Tottenham’s goal.
- Fulham 2-0 Sunderland. 7 Feb 1976. Division 2. Don’t know why we went to this game, my dad chose it.
- Halifax Town 1-2 Grimsby. 26 August 1978. Division 4. The only match I ever saw up north. I remember groups of fans moving around menacingly but whether they were followers of Grimsby or Halifax, I’m not sure.
- Reading 1-0 Halifax Town. 28 April 1979. Division 4. This makes more sense my dad’s team (Halifax) and our local team (Reading) …local to Slough.
- England 1-1 Rumania. 11 September 1985. At Wembley. FIFA World Cup Group 3. The only time I saw England (or any national team). Glenn Hoddle scored for England. I was supposed to meet my friend Andrew Okolotowicz, but we didn’t meet up. I wasn’t impressed by all the nationalistic chanting (nationalism is abhorrent to me…although I still want England to win whenever they play).
- Leyton Orient 2-0 Blackpool. 14 October 1989. Division 3. At the time I was living in the East End of London. Football Fanzines were big news and supporting a lower division team had cred. Millwall were a scary proposition, I wasn’t ready for the notorious Den, so I opted to follow Leyton Orient.
- Arsenal 4-3 Norwich. 4 November 1989. Division 1. This was a time when there were still stands. It cost just £5 to get in. We stood with the Norwich fans. It was an eventful game , lots of goals and a punch up on the pitch.
- Maidstone United 2-0 Hereford 14 February 1990. Division 4. This is where I started to wonder about the sanity of watching live football. My friend Jeremy was from Maidstone, which was why we went. We were in Dartford (Maidstone were ground sharing at the time) on a cold night in February, with sleet falling on the pitch and us. The quality of football was dire and we’d paid £4 for the “privilege”. Very few Hereford fans had made the trip, not that I blame them.
- Fulham 2-0 Rotherham 6 October 1990. Division 3. Leyton Orient maybe my team, but I have seen Fulham as many times.
- Leyton Orient 1-0 Fulham 4 November 1990. Division 3. Now this might be a shock result, but in 1990 it wasn’t, this was before Mohamed Al Fayed injected millions into Fulham, which like helium in a balloon enabled them to float up from the lower leagues.
- Oxford United 0-0 Blackburn Rovers 6 April 1991.Division 2. The only football match, I’ve been to on my own. A dull game.
- Kidderminster Harriers 2-1 Leyton Orient. 16 September 2000. Division 3. The last match I saw with my dad.
- Dinamo Tbilisi 0-5 Tottenham 22 August 2013. Europa League Play Off. Tottenham again, back where I began in a way but a long way from Loftus Road. Tottenham completely outplayed Dinamo Tbilisi, a pity, I didn’t mind Tottenham winning but I was hoping for a more entertaining competitive game.
- Dinamo Tbilisi 0-3 PAOK Salonika. 18 August 2016. Europa League Play Off. Dinamo had most of the possession in the first half. PAOK had a couple of shots, but they scored with the first one. In the Second Half, PAOK were too strong and clinical.
Not many games for a football fan, I find myself a little embarrassed talking to the true fans, who see their team every week and follow them around the country. I look out for Leyton Orient‘s results and this season (2013-14 season) they have started surprisingly well. They are top of League One (third division in England).
I collected and traded Soccer Stars in the 75/76 season…and almost filled up an album. I think I learnt more about economics and the laws of supply and demand than I did about football from this…a John Duncan is worth at least 10 Emlyn Hugheses… I also played a lot of Subbuteo with my mates (my teams: Tottenham/Derby, Sunderland/Stoke/Southampton and Blackpool/Holland playing their teams of England, Chelsea or Liverpool).
Up the Os!
April 2017 Update: Leyton Orient are now at the bottom of League Two and are looking imminently at non-league status.