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About A Week: Blue And White For Ever

Peter Hinchliffe declares his loyalty to the Terriers.

There we were, in a pub, elder son Dave and I, eagerly anticipating the kick-off of the big match at 11 pm.

The game of the season. Arsenal v Chelsea. The best sides in the English Premiership. (Sorry, Manchester United).

- 11 pm - you are thinking. - No match starts at that time. They’re obviously watching a recording of the game. Or edited highlights. -

No, no. We were there to see footballing history as it happened.

The game started at 4 pm at Highbury, London. But we were in a small bar in a side street in Chiang Mai, a city in northern Thailand.

And in Thailand it was 11 pm.

English football travels far, and English teams have fans in almost every city in the world.

“Come on Thieri Henri!’’ chortled a Thai gentleman sitting at the table next to ours as the Arsenal star opened up the route to goal with a precision pass.

The previous evening Dave and I had been watching live football in another Chiang Mai pub, the Red Lion. As you would expect in an establishment with such a name the customers were predominantly British, there to watch Newcastle v Portsmouth while they sipped Tiger ale. Newcastle were playing in their own famous stadium, St James’ Park.

On a high stool at the bar was a chap wearing a Newcastle team shirt, the black-and-white Magpie stripes.

“Do you live on Tyneside?’’ I asked when the opportunity came to speak to him.

“Why aye,’’ said he.

“I used to work in Newcastle,’’ said I. “Chief reporter, Newcastle Evening Chronicle.’’

“I live in Gateshead.’’

“Are you working over here?’’

“Nah. Holiday.’’

“Do you go to matches at St James’ Park?’’

“See there,’’ he said, grabbing my shoulder and pointing at the TV screen, which at that moment showed one of the crowded St James’ Park stands. “That’s my uncle. Right there! ‘Cos I’m here I’m letting him use my season ticket.’’

English football travels far - and so do English fans.

“I used to go to St James’ Park whenever I could,’’ said I.

“Do you still support Newcastle then?’’ asked Magpie stripes.

“I want ‘em to win,’’ said I, “but I support my home town team. Season ticket holder.’’

“Who’s that then?’’

“Huddersfield Town.’’

“Ah well,’’ said the Magpie. “I suppose somebody has to support them.’’

You bet they do! A true wool-dyed English football fan doesn’t choose his team. The team chooses him.

My “wool’’ is dyed in the blue-and-white of Huddersfield Town. Grew up not five miles from the old Leeds Road ground. First went to watch Town more than 60 years ago. Followed them through thick and thin. Mostly thin.

Town are known as the Terriers. The Yorkshire Terriers. Very appropriate. Remaining loyal to a club which once sank from the First Division to the Fourth requires a terrier’s determination.

But if you’re from Chiang Mai, Chicago, Santiago, you can take your pick of English teams.

Newcastle drew 1-1 with Portsmouth in a dreary game. The Magpie fan in the Red Lion was not happy.

Arsenal drew 2-2 with Chelsea. The Thai gents who supported Arsenal were philosophical.

And me? Well, Tiger beer is rather tasty. I‘d met some interesting folk. Had two evenings to remember.

And we travelling Englishmen always try to soak up the local culture when we go abroad..

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