My name is Garry Swan. I am a chef, an occasional blogger, and a football fan. I was born in Scotland approximately 23 years ago and was transported many of those years ago to the warmer climes of South London. In amongst all the uprooting that occurred, I had one pillar of stability. One thing that I could use not only to keep myself on the straight and narrow path, but also to keep me connected to my roots from a 400mile distance. I had football.
As I grew up, friends came and went, girlfriends came and went, even players came and went. The one thing I knew would always be, was the game. Anything light enough to kick is a football. How many of you out there have been wandering along the street on your way home from school and started kicking a can about because you’ve nothing better to do? Yeah, me too. Do you remember the disappointment felt when the ball got kicked over a fence, or got stuck up a tree? The arguments that started over who was fetching it? The reluctance to get stuck in early on a Saturday morning when you just know that the pitch you’re using is coated in frozen dog eggs from the week before? I remember all those things. Obviously, I never once went to fetch the ball, nor did I do much of the kicking over the fence. And I was certainly not up early enough for a Saturday morning kick about. I saw a few on my way back from whichever under-age drinking stupidity I’d been partaking the previous night. The pitch was indeed coated in dog eggs.
Like a lot of people who read this, I played football for the school team. Not through choice, mind you, mostly because I was forced. I realised early on that I was never going to turn pro, and snuggled down into my metaphorical armchair early on. I was forced onto some nasty, bald, uneven, dry and sore-when-you-fell grass pitch at the back of a South London comprehensive in a sweaty polyester kit. I was made to be the right back. I’m not a fast runner. Never was. I always thought I should have been a centre back. You have no need to go charging forward on a needless energy wasting run if you play at the back in the middle. You’re expected to not attack. Plus, my final ball was always a little bit awry, certainly shocking for someone expected to be able to ping crosses in on the run. I was OK at free kicks, and I could get some distance and power on the ball, but very little accuracy. In fact, I’ll stop sugar coating it. I was there to make the numbers up. Meh, I’m fine with it.
It was playing on one of these wind-swept dog toilets that my burgeoning career as a player was truly ended when I was laid out flat by a nasty tackle that left me with a boo-boo on my knee. I still hobble a wee bit even now, a good 11 years later, and I like to think its the injury, rather than the lack of ability, that ended my blossoming career.
The point of all that is that I’m a football fan. I had a pillar of stability. Fair enough, I don’t support my local team, but there is a heritage connection to it. Its the family team. Its only not local due to geography. I’m a few hundred miles away from Glasgow, and I’d be hard pressed to call that a local team(that being said, the Australian A-League has some impressively distant “local” derbies). Not once have I wavered from the belief that next year the title will be ours, regardless of if we won it this year, last year, or 5 years ago. Cut me in half and I bleed the colours. Ask me about them, and I can tell you many, many things.
I’m sure there are fans out there who have valid claims that they are more hardcore, they sing the songs, they go to every game, they scrap with the other half, etc. I’m not sure that makes them a better fan. I am sure that they are misguided, simple and cannot grasp that once the 90 minutes is up, those self same people they were singing about will be in the pub next to them. Its a shame that the game has fallen by the wayside in Scotland.
My name is Garry Swan. And I am a Celtic fan. I live in South London, and I will be attending AFC Wimbledon’s home games next year.
By Garry Swan – Celtic fan – @thirdratehero