FOOTBALL: From Roker to Podcaster
Chris Laverick recounts his journey as football fan
I’ve always been keen on my football. I was born in West London, but funnily enough my first experience of live football was watching Sunderland, as my father’s family is from the north-east of England (Seaham Harbour, to be precise). Me, my dad and grandad used to watch the mighty Mackems at Roker Park every month or so. I remember their gloriously noisy fans and the bar of nougat that my grandad used to get me…and that it was bloody freezing! My first visit to Wembley was the League Cup final vs Norwich in 1985 – we lost 1-0.
Then I started going with my mates to QPR, as Loftus Road was a 20-minute walk from my house. In 1986 they reached the League Cup Final vs Oxford and lost 3-0: so two visits in two years and two defeats. I’ve never seen my team win at Wembley yet.
My love affair with QPR lasted until I moved to Hastings in 2005. It became more difficult then to continue getting to home and away matches as I had a young family. And in 2007 they were taken over by Bernie Eccleston and Flavio Briatore and became, in the words of the new owners, a ‘boutique club’, ripping up the seats of longstanding season-ticket holders in favour of more corporate boxes. I won’t lie, I completely fell out of love for them and, as it was a fairly common trend, I also fell out of love with professional football in this country. I felt the soul of top-flight clubs had gone in constantly chasing the money.
I became a sporadic Hastings United fan, initially popping down to the Pilot Field three or four games a season. With my young family of three (at that point), I didn’t have the money or motivation to get to Loftus Road any more than the odd visit a season. Then I started attending Hastings more through the early 2010s, even though the football wasn’t the greatest. The FA Cup-run was fabulous and an unbelievable experience (particular the 4,000 crowd at the Pilot Field in that emotional epic shoot-out win), but it was sandwiched in the middle of a really dire season which ended in relegation.
I started watching Hastings regularly around 2016. I’d got the bug for the club and felt that this team could and should be going places. The players and fans deserved it, as did the town, they just needed that something special….
And then came Chris Agutter, and it all changed! Coming to the Pilot Field made a refreshing contrast to the times where, socially and politically, people were being so intentionally stoked and divided. It was great to see everyone at the club being so united and supportive of their team, and noticing all the wonderful people and characters in the stands that support it, kids running around all happy, and that proper feeling of family and togetherness…it was infectious. And then there was the football….which started changing too – there just seemed a joy to it, an intent, as we started moving teams around the pitch at will. To begin with, we did leak a few goals but were also scoring at will. Then Chris put together that inspiring centre-half partnership of Gary Elphick and Craig Stone, and we became almost unstoppable at times.
Getting the message out
With all the wonderful people working around this club, spreading their positivity, the fantastic support and the TOP football on display, I thought to myself that there must be a way to get that message out to a wider audience. And to really make this #Hastingsfamily grow. I like to chat!… so I thought WHY NOT?!
In August 2020 I started up my SUSSEX BY THE SEA PODCAST (available on YouTube, Spotify, Podbean and Audible). I’d never done one before and, having listened to the odd one or two, I figured it sounded a doddle! Little did I know that these things, while being really fun to make, could be very time-consuming. Also, a weekly podcast means having to rely on others to be free with editing deadlines, which can be a tad stressful.
I’ve found I am really at home when I can get one-on-one with someone and just keep that conversation flowing. One of the most enjoyable times I had was when I was chatting with a young lad who was the winner of the supporters club flag design competition. He was a massive fan of Davide Rodari (a fabulous forward who has now signed for Crawley Town in League Division 2), and it just took me back to when I was a kid idolising my favourite players.
Coming to the Pilot Field made a refreshing contrast to the times where, socially and politically, people were being so intentionally stoked and divided
It’s been great fun doing this podcast, despite the disruption of Covid and a lack of football. Hosting fan round-table meetings, interviewing players and staff from both the men’s and women’s teams, also interviewing staff and chairmen of rival clubs, has been a massive reminder that we are all one big footballing family, be it the players and staff or just us humble fans. I am hoping in the near future, once we have football on again, to tech out the podcast a bit more and have live- streamed interviews, for even more connection with our super fan base. It would also be great to help raise the profile of the club and keep engaged with fans from all around the world.
So far we have had listeners from several European countries, the USA, Israel, India and Mexico… not forgetting Guernsey too!
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