Patriotic Joe Bass had a golden opportunity. The lifelong football supporter and England fan had just seen the last of his children leave home and decided it was time to do some travelling of his own.
“I wasn’t ready yet to stay at home in my slippers, feeding the goldfish and watching repeats of Last of the Summer Wine,” says the 62-year-old former window cleaner.
Still in short trousers when England lifted their one and only World Cup on home soil in 1966, Joe decided to follow the Three Lions to South Africa for the 2010 tournament, and hasn’t missed one since.
Has it been rewarding? Well, following England all around the world for the past decade hasn’t resulted in any silverware for the team, but at least Joe can now celebrate being named the latest monthly winner in Coral’s Fan of the Year competition.
And who better to have selected Joe than former England centre-forward Alan Shearer, who netted 30 goals for his country and was the top scorer in Euro 96?
Joe’s accolade means he wins £1,000 in prizes, and as a long-standing volunteer at his local club, Newark Town, he’s decided to donate it all to the “Peaceful Warriors”.
As a monthly winner, Joe also has a chance to be crowned Coral’s ultimate Football Fan of the Year at the end of the season. If he wins, he’ll net another £10,000 in football prizes, and he would love to take Ann, his wife of 45 years and childhood sweetheart, to Qatar for next year’s World Cup.
“It’d be the trip of a lifetime and a thank you for letting me go to all the other tournaments over the years,” he says.
Joe has certainly had some adventures in that time, which spans Fabio Capello’s stint in charge to Gareth Southgate’s current tenure. And if only England had been as good at keeping a clean sheet as Joe was at cleaning windows, they’d have done rather better.
But, ever the optimist, for his trip to South Africa, Joe secured tickets all the way through to the final! He kept other costs down by sticking to cheap hostels and campsites. Unfortunately, the Germans stuck four balls past David James as England crashed out in the second round.
Undeterred, Joe’s loyalty stretched to further trips to Brazil in 2014 and Ukraine in 2016. And if England’s results were a disappointment, his encounters with ordinary people often proved a heartwarming highlight. Like the time he got hopelessly lost in the favelas of Rio, and was led to safety by kindly locals.
Joe says: “Time and time again on my travels I’ve been so lucky to meet so many kind people – complete strangers who have gone out of their way to help me and make my trips so memorable.”
In 2018 he then followed England to semi-final heartbreak in Russia as he took an epic adventure through the world’s largest country, watching all seven England games, visiting six cities and travelling 4,719 miles by air and 4,173 miles by train.
Recalling some of the highlights, Joe says: “I high-fived at least 80 volunteers, slept an average of four hours a night, and lost three pairs of glasses, five pairs of socks, a pair of shoes and a box of cornflakes!”
That’s Joe’s story – now it’s your turn! Do you know someone with a tale to match? Someone who has shown similar devotion to either club or country, from grassroots to the professional game?
There’s the super-fan who, like Joe, has had some amazing adventures while travelling to support their side. Or the club stalwart who has come up with a brilliant way to raise funds to keep them afloat throughout the pandemic. Whoever it is, Coral wants to hear about them.
As Joe shows through his passion and commitment, Football Fan of the Year is about the kind of fan who inspires others, going above and beyond for the love of the game.
Coral is looking for its next winner…
The passion for football comes in many forms and we want to hear about yours. If you know a superfan in your area who deserves to win – it could be yourself! – go to footballfanoftheyear.co.uk and tell us your story.