I moved to Croydon and married a Chelsea fan, but Leicester City’s written on my heart

By - Monday 23rd May, 2016

As Croydon’s Eagles dare but don’t quite succeed, a Foxier football fan confesses her loyalties

The news that Leicester City FC had done the impossible and won the Premier League led me to reflect on my relationship with my home-town club. It fits neatly into four stages. First there are early childhood memories of the Filbert Street floodlights when we were taken to the dentist in nearby Sawday Street, and of my mum’s friend in Noel Street having his windows rattled by a stray ball or two.

Then there are the two occasions that I visited the Filbert Street ground before I moved away from Leicester in the early 1990s. The first was as a young teenager seeing a lacklustre draw against local rivals Derby on my uncle’s season ticket: it’s the tackles between the fans that stick in my mind from that day. The second was a few years later, watching my brother play for Lutterworth against Millfield in the 1987 schools FA Cup: FIFA street versus the sporting elite. Sadly there was to be no David and Goliath moment that night.

Then I moved south. married a Chelsea FC fan and had children who are Chelsea fans too and think that I ‘talk funny’. My brother fared worse in that regard: he moved away and married a rugby fan. (Before anyone points it out, I know that Leicester has at times been renowned for both rugby and cricket. I’ve tried both once, didn’t understand what was going on and put both sports in the ‘things to try once’ box. I may now give snooker a go, though.) It became our thing to go to the Boxing Day game on our triennial Christmas visits to Leicester. Last year we couldn’t get tickets and had to go to the pantomime with the rugby fans!

Did the visiting Leicester City fans realise that I had their shirt on under my coat?

Finally there are the games that I’ve seen as an away fan at nearby the nearby Crystal Palace FC ground, at Stamford Bridge and (not so nearby if you go by public transport) in Reading. After my first visit to Selhurst Park it felt strange giving Leicester fans directions and I had to fight the urge to get on their bus. I had a coat on over my (Fryatt) shirt, so did they realise that I was one of them? The other game was a rousing 2-0 New Year’s Day win for us. When the players came over to applaud us, I knew why people say that the atmosphere is better at away games.

On another occasion, I saw an actual fox on the pitch at Selhurst Park: it was the highlight of the game and no, Leicester wasn’t the opponent that time. Sitting with my children and the home fans at Stamford Bridge, I failed to conceal my joy when we got two back against Chelsea, eventually losing 5-2. My abiding memory of the trip to Reading was of a steward on the bus to the station pointing out Paul Konchesky driving past eating crisps after the game.

I wouldn’t repeat the experience of the East Midlands Masters at whatever-they-were-calling-the-arena-in-Nottingham-in-those-days. The fact that they mix all the fans up was worse than having to wait while they stuck the carpet down between games. It’s the players who are retired, not the fans!

My husband is currently behind Mark Clattenburg in the queue at Specsavers

Back to the present: my son was at the decisive Chelsea versus Spurs game and our living room was full of tension as my husband and I willed on the other boys in blue, each for our own reasons. We attempted a high-five when Hazard got the equaliser but my husband missed my hand and is currently behind Mark Clattenburg in the queue at Specsavers.

Several work colleagues mentioned the Leicester phenomenon to me the day after they won the Premier League title. (I think that they were actually surprised to see me.) Whether I’ve been a football bore this season or they were hoping that I’d bring in doughnuts with blue icing, this proves that football is part of my identity. Twenty five years after leaving the city I was able to tell that an old lady sitting next to me on the 157 bus was also from Leicester. I hope that that happens to me one day.

Sue Harling

Sue Harling

Sue Harling moved to Croydon from Leicester twenty-three years ago via Bath, Krefeld and other parts of London. She lives with her family in Waddon, where there is plentiful access to her favourite pastimes: tribute bands, cafes, choral singing and quizzes. In her spare time she’s a civil servant.

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  • blath8@googlemail.com

    Love the story :-) /see you soon at a quiz or gig near you (or me) …….