“I miss the anticipation, the joy, the despair and the sense of belonging. I miss the memories of all the games past and the hope for all those games yet to come.”
Norwich supporter Sarah Greaves sums up how 2020 has felt for a huge amount of football fans.
As England continues through another national lockdown, the return of fans to football grounds seems as far away as ever.
With that in mind, we asked you to get in touch and reminisce about the last live game you watched. These are your stories.
‘Out of nowhere my son was next to me with the match ball’
Hasan Hussein, 40, from, Claypole, Lincolnshire, took his son Ulus, 12, to watch Manchester United beat Manchester City at Old Trafford on 8 March. Scott McTominay sealed a 2-0 win with a long-range strike past City goalkeeper Ederson in injury time.
“As the ball hit the net, we all went crazy then out of nowhere my son was standing next to me with the match ball in his hands,” says Hasan.”We both wondered how it ended up with us, and you can see on the TV the players had to wait a good few minutes to restart as no-one had an idea where the ball was.
“What we later saw on Match of the Day was Ederson, in disgust, booted it into the fans. Little did we know this would be the match ball for the last game we could watch at Old Trafford for almost a year.
“My son still hasn’t kicked the ball outside and it has a place on his mantelpiece in his bedroom.”
‘Embodiment of why we love football’
Bournemouth fans Will and Jessica Slinger, both 30, from London, travelled to Argentina for their honeymoon and watched San Lorenzo de Almagro beat Lanus 4-3 in Buenos Aires on 8 March. Former Newcastle captain Fabricio Coloccini played for the home side.
“The crowd were awesome – passionate, vocal and partisan to the end,” says Will. “People noticed we weren’t singing along and were delighted to find out we were British – we were welcomed heartily into the fold, with rumours going around that we were members of the UK’s chapter of San Lorenzo fans.
“It was an amazing experience, the embodiment of why we love football so dearly. I cannot wait to get back into Dean Court to watch the mighty Cherries again and feel that same rush and euphoria.”
‘The atmosphere was just one of an extended football family’
Norwich fan Sarah Greaves, from South London, took her 12-year-old daughter Naomi to watch the Canaries beat Leicester 1-0 at Carrow Road on 28 February with her sister and father-in-law. Just a month earlier, Sarah’s late father Barry, a lifelong Norwich fan, had gone viral after he left £100 in his will for the players to have a drink on him.
“What a game, what a night,” says Sarah. “In the club shop after the game there were fans from New York and Teemu Pukki fans from Finland – the atmosphere was just intense and joyous.
“Looking back, the atmosphere was just one of family – a big, extended football family. From people who sit near us talking about my dad to the guy from New York who’d changed his flight home to make the game.
“And now we watch the games but it’s not the same; we send them messages but it’s not the same; we wear our Norwich kit in South London on matchdays but it’s not the same and we see our seats in videos from the club or during matches and we can’t wait to be back.
“To be back with my football family and back in my football home – the noise at that first game back is going to be a pretty emotional experience.”
‘Memorable for all the wrong reasons’
David Clift, 89, from St Albans, has been a Southampton supporter for 75 years, watching his first match at Fulham in 1945. The last match he was at was the 9-0 loss to Leicester on 25 October 2019.
“This was memorable for me for all the wrong reasons and I sincerely hope I shall be able to erase it from my memory and see them win again,” says David.
“Covid-19 has seriously interfered with that and as I am 89 it may be very difficult for me to make the journey from my home. My son has promised to take me but who knows when we will be able to do it. I live in hope.
“My father was a Saints supporter starting in 1906, and my grandparents before that back to about 1890 so about 130 years in total and my son is carrying on the tradition.”
‘We met Jose’
Dave Freeman, 58, from Chipping Norton, travelled to Germany to watch Tottenham play RB Leipzig in the Champions League last 16 on 10 March. Spurs lost the game 3-0, and the tie 4-0 on aggregate, but Dave, his son Joe and friend ‘Quinny’ ended up bumping into Spurs boss Jose Mourinho.
“While we were out socialising we saw a group coming towards us in full Spurs livery and it was Jose and his team – it would have been rude not ask for a photo,” says Dan. “I’m sure Jose fondly remembers our meeting!
“The game the next day was best forgotten. I miss every game, the travel, and particularly the European away games.”
‘My daughter thinks a 3-2 away victory is a normal football experience’
Dan Gardiner, 46, from Suffolk, took his nine-year-old daughter to watch Grimsby win 3-2 at Colchester on 11 February. It was her first night match and she saw Charles Vernam score a hat-trick, including the League Two goal of the season.
“The game was special for a few reasons and looking back it makes it even more special as this is something we just can’t experience at the minute,” says Dan.
“The slight downside is my daughter thinks a 3-2 away victory is a normal football experience and keeps asking when we can go again.”
‘My last normal photo before lockdown’
Jonathan Sealby, 45, living in Somerset but originally from Lymm, went to watch Manchester City in the Carabao Cup at Wembley on 1 March. He watched with his son, who was celebrating his 11th birthday, and dad, as City beat Aston Villa 2-1.
“What was special is that we had a great day out, Villa put up a good fight but we held on to win the game,” says Jonathan.” Covid-19 was ‘in the news’ and we were wary of getting the Tube, say, but really the crowds were so different to what was soon to be the norm with the first lockdown.
“I’m so glad we got to that game, as I don’t know when we’ll be able to go again.
“I remember posting this photo on Facebook as part of ‘my last normal photo before lockdown’ because it starkly shows how different things were.”
‘El Clasico was a pretty spectacular way to go out’
Aston Villa fans Mark Attwood, Ian Tetsill and John Preece, all 51, from Kingswinford, West Midlands, managed to get tickets to watch Real Madrid play Barcelona in El Clasico on 1 March. The trip, planned the previous year, ended up coinciding with the Carabao Cup final.
“Reluctantly, with flights, hotel and tickets booked in Madrid, we gave our cup final tickets to our daughters and ended up watching the Villa game in an Irish bar, just down the road from the Bernabeu,” says Mark. “We managed to see the whole game just before setting off to take our seats for El Clasico.
“If you had known that you were going into an enforced period of not being able to go to matches then this was a pretty spectacular way to go out. The atmosphere was electric – easy to see why this is one of the biggest games in the world. It was played in torrential rain and both teams were closing in on the league title – Madrid won 2-0.”
‘Meeting my Chilean hero’
Connor O’Reilly, 21, from Bishops Stortford, watched his Cambridge United side lose 2-1 at Leyton Orient on 7 March. A chance meeting with Orient’s Chilean keeper Lawrence Vigouroux was the highlight for Connor, who is half-Chilean.
“I travel up and down the country with my Chilean flag with the Cambridge logo in the middle, and as the Orient team were training in front of the away end, he saw the flag and came over.” says Conor. “We had a chat and shared a photo and for me it felt special to see him doing well for a decent Orient side.
“The game itself started and 1,256 fans packed into the away end chanting for the whole game. We played poorly, and went into the half 2-0 down but it didn’t stop the fans singing all game long.
“We got a deserved goal back from Paul Mullin but couldn’t grab a winner, with Vigouroux making an incredible last-minute save.”
‘My four-year-old daughter met Clucas’
Simon Bailey, 42, from Newcastle-under-Lyme, took his wife Claire and their then four-year-old daughter Abigail to watch Stoke beat Hull 5-1 on 7 March at the bet365 Stadium.
“What made this really special, even more than it being the last game that Stoke fans could attend, was that it was the first match that my wife Claire went to watch and the third match for Abigail, who saw her favourite player Sam Clucas score two goals,” says Simon.
“Now five years old, Abigail loves football and is looking forward to going to a Stoke match again when it is safe.”
Matthew Crouch, 26, from Portsmouth, travelled to Barcelona to watch Lionel Messi score as they beat Real Sociedad 1-0 on 7 March.
“My friends and I had discussed going to Barcelona to watch Messi in his prime for close to a decade,” says Matthew. “It was on all of our bucket lists and even with the threat of getting stuck in Barcelona for upwards of two weeks we were not cancelling the trip.
“Every time he had the ball at his feet, the entire stadium would fall quiet. You felt the anticipation and expectation he would do something special every time. It’s something that you will stay with me forever.
“Looking back it was not the best game of football I had ever watched live, but it felt a privilege to be there. Thinking back to the atmosphere still gives me tingles.”
‘Felt like I was passing on the baton’
Martin Crow took his four-year-old daughter Scarlet to watch her first Sunderland match at the Stadium of Light as they drew 2-2 with Gillingham on 7 March 2020.
“It was a really special occasion for me given that I went to my first game at the same age and had a season ticket since the age of eight,” says Martin.
“Taking Scarlet for the first time felt like I was passing on the baton to the next generation and it was particularly special given we sat with my parents, who are both incredibly passionate about Sunderland and their granddaughter.
“This image was taken at the end of the game. I don’t think she wanted to leave! Sharing something that’s so special to you with your children just can’t be expressed in words.”
‘Fortunate to do something we no longer take for granted’
For his 50th birthday, Matthew Spillum, from Saint Paul, Minnesota, and his wife Reene travelled to Liverpool to watch the Reds beat Bournemouth 2-1 on 7 March.
“It was a wonderful birthday gift from Renee, made even more extraordinary by the events that rapidly transpired,” says Matthew.
“Looking back, I feel fortunate to have had this opportunity, not only to have had the thrill of watching a game at Anfield during the title season, but to have been able to do all those things that we can no longer take for granted – a packed stadium, a crowded but cosy pub, live music, museums, travel – right on the cusp of everything changing so dramatically.
“In so many ways, it feels like it was the last possible international vacation. In many ways, I almost feel fortunate that the world changed so swiftly afterwards, as I feel like I appreciate the trip so much more.
“We live six blocks from Minnesota United’s Allianz Field, where we are season ticket holders. Though the MLS is playing on, it might as well be in Liverpool, as it is hard to maintain that day-to-day connection when the game is merely an online abstraction and not a matchday experience.”
‘Special trip with dad’
Wolves fan Tom Sperrink 34, took his dad to Spain to watch the Europa League last-32 second-leg tie against Espanyol on 27 February – fulfilling a dream to watch his side play in Europe. Wolves lost 3-2 on the night, but won 6-3 on aggregate.
Tom says: “The stadium was a quarter full, the tie was pretty much done and dusted (in our favour) but in truth it didn’t matter because I’d been to Barcelona to watch Wolves win a competitive European knockout game with my dad, and having been at Brighton when we got relegated to League One a few years prior this would have been unfathomable.
“And that was that, Wolves won at Spurs the next week but I wasn’t there and I saw our behind-closed-doors away tie to Olympiakos on TV (not realising this would soon be the norm).”
‘From the moment we got home he asked when he could go again’
Dom Moret, 39, from Carshalton, Surrey, watched Crystal Palace beat Watford 1-0 on 7 March at Selhurst Park with his sons Dexter (four) and Coby (now seven) and their grandad John.
“The game was special as it was Dexter’s first ever match,” says Dom. “He is the youngest of three brothers and has seen his brothers going to games since he was born so had been desperate to go to Selhurst himself.
“The game wasn’t great, but he was instantly hooked by Selhurst’s famous atmosphere and joined in singing Glad All Over as the team’s came out. From our seats in the Holmesdale Road stand we were right behind Jordan Ayew’s goal and Dexter went crazy when it hit the back of the net.
“From the moment we got home he was asking when he could go to his next game, and only a few days later we had to break it to him that it was unlikely to be any time soon.
“I’m so glad he got to go to a game before lockdown and Dexter’s really pleased he now knows what his brothers have been talking about.
“My main ambition, once we’re able to go back to live games again, is for me and ‘Gramps’ to take all three of the boys to a match together as a five for the first time. Fingers crossed for 2021.”
‘An opportunity to celebrate my dad’s memory’
Leeds United fan Matt Thompson, 47, attended a 0-0 draw between Annan Athletic and Cowdenbeath at Galabankon 7 March 2020 in memory of his late dad.
“I discovered my dad had developed a bit of a ‘thing’ for Annan Athletic,” says Matt. “Over the years, every time we drove past Annan we discussed going to watch a game.
“In 2018 dad was diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia with Parkinsonism and we soon realised that it wouldn’t be practical for us to visit Galabank as his physical condition was deteriorating. In 2019 he died of complications due to his illness. He was only 67.
“I decided to do what we had talked about and put off for so long and actually go and watch Annan Athletic play.
“I picked a game and emailed Philip Jones, the Annan chairman, who kindly put a short dedication in the match programme and spoke with me before the game to welcome me to the Galabank Stadium.
“Although the game was only a 0-0 draw, I enjoyed every minute of it and was worth the five-hour round trip my pal John and I made. I will be going back as soon as possible with my son.”