Introducing Me; A Football Addict

It’s all about being there to witness events with your own eyes. Nothing beats the sight of a wonderful volley flying in past the keeper just yards in front of you. The soundtrack is provided by a chorus of predominantly young-to-middle-aged blokes shouting and cheering, sometimes jeering, in unison. The wit and wisdom of the terrace is a thing of wonder. Of course there’s always a few knobheads whenever you go, people I imagine say that about me, but that’s so often countered by great humour and collective willing. Then there’s the smell. Grounds have a particular fragrance. It’s recognisable and it’s comforting but it’s hard to say exactly what it is. Several thousand paper plates of chips and burgers, mixed with even more cups of beer, added to the musk that the human body only naturally exudes in small, confined spaces, and you can begin to imagine; all ingredients to that familiarity. The ‘matchday experience’, as our beloved Chief Execs will want you to call it, can be joyous, it can be frustrating but boy is it addictive. There’s just so much about the apparent ‘beautiful game’ that I love,  it keeps me coming back week after week, season after season. My name is Mark O’Meara, and I’m a football addict.

At the home of football

I don’t remember exactly when it was that I caught the bug, I can’t even tell you for sure what my first fixture was (annoyingly). I think it may have been an England youth match at the old Goldstone ground but I have no recollection at all. I was taken by my Dad to a handful of games when I was young and didn’t really understand nor love it at the time. I’m very grateful in hindsight. Prior to the ’98 World Cup I would prefer to watch whatever was on ‘the other side’ than the Saturday afternoon results on Grandatand. Oh, the shame. That all changed. The more I watched the game, the more I understood and therefore the more I loved it. I owe my early love for the game largely to Sky Sports and the way they covered it. Watching Soccer AM became my Saturday morning ritual. Then Jeff Stelling, George Best, Rodney Marsh and co took over until the early evening. Finally Des Lynam, and later Gary Lineker, rounded off the day with the highlights. For 40 Saturdays of the year I’d spend my time being told about all the emotions, good and bad, the sport brought. People of all ages loved it. My Dad loved it, even my Mum would watch a lot of the time. Football was becoming an increasingly major part of my life and I wanted to experience more for myself.

Fast forward seventeen years since watching on telly those Finals in France, my first taste of really enjoying football, and we are in the summer of 2015. I’m 25, living and working in London and a season ticket holder at Brighton and Hove Albion. It’s not how I had planned my life to be, nor had I expected it like this. I have a fair bit of ‘disposable income’, whatever that terrible phrase means, no responsibilities other than looking after myself and a decent knowledge of public transport routes around Great Britain. Consequently I attend upwards of 40 football matches a season, all over the country. I’ve been doing this many for about four seasons now. And I absolutely love it. The further I have to travel the more enjoyable I often find it.

With Brigton being in the Championship it means travelling to some of the better grounds; the likes of Leeds and Middlesbrough for example. It also means visiting some of the less glamorous places, such as Burnley or Hull, but that’s what makes it even more fun. Burnley away has been one of my favourite trips in previous seasons, regardless of the result. Being in the Championship also means there are around four or five weekends a season when there isn’t a league game due to the international break. I’ve been using this opportunity to experience lower league matches and they’ve been just as enjoyable, sometimes more so because the nerves aren’t there over the result. Unconsciously down the years I had been ticking off several of the 92 League clubs (from the Premier League down to League 2). That goal became my new obsession.

I’ve visited over 115 football stadiums around Europe and, after a now very conscious effort to fill every free moment with some form of live match in recent seasons, I am now just one team away from completing ‘the 92′. Notts County, if you’re interested. I don’t really speak extensively about my trips, mainly because I didn’t think anyone really cared, but it’s turned out to be a decent talking point, particularly when meeting new football fans. Twitter and Instagram have showed me quite a few people are discovering new grounds and share the same passion and interest that I do. I wanted to get in on this, give my thoughts and share my passion in the hope others follow suit. Websites such as Football Ground Guide and Football Ground Map are invaluable tools for pre and post trip planning and documenting. This blog will allow the words to meet the pictures. The upcoming season has the potential to be my greatest one personally. I should complete my 92 club mission at the start and hopefully end it in the greatest party on the continent; the Euro 2016 finals! It’s going to be a memorable season, join the ride. My previous season ended on June 7th in Dublin with a friendly between England and the Republic of Ireland. There’s no talk of a summer break here though, the fixtures are out ten days later! Let the games begin.

About Mark O'MEARA
I am Mark O'MEARA.

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