I first met Alan Main at Lancaster Road School, Morecambe when I was collecting information about the William Smith Festival. Alan was extremely proud of the youngsters at his school who had lifted this prestigious local trophy in consecutive years. He is an enthusiastic teacher who will have a really positive influence on his young charges.
I can trace my fascination with football back to 27th Feb 1971. A few months shy of my 6th birthday, I recall waiting (with my non sporty parents) outside Fir Park, the home of Scottish top flight side Motherwell to pick up my 15 year old sister who had attended a home match against lowly Cowdenbeath. I recall the smells, the cheers and the groans coming from within and the rush of disgruntled punters leaving the ground as the final whistle sounded on a 2-1 defeat for the home side against a side who were to be relegated later that season.
After much cajoling and persuasion, I was allowed to go to the next home match along with my sister against a side called Falkirk, who featured a former Rangers star (Alex Ferguson) in their midfield. The excitement of seeing live a game that I had only occasionally seen on TV was magical, and I was soon a regular at Fir Park, and continued to be so, even once my sister stopped going a few years later after finding other things to do at the weekend.
Despite becoming a keen student of the beautiful game, my natural ability was not what I hoped it would be. I was proud to say I was probably about the 8th best player in my class at Castlehill Primary School in Wishaw, but my one appearance for the school football team in 1977 proved to be a massive disappointment. For some benevolent reason, the coach/teacher Hugh Wilson gave all the duffers a chance to play against the bottom of the table school Netherton. I was named as sub, and came on at half time with us leading 1-0. Sadly, I contributed very little and I was soon substituted, the ultimate embarrassment, and to make matters worse, we lost 2-1 to a jubilant side who had never ever won a game before that fateful afternoon!
I quickly realised at the age of 12 that a career as a professional footballer was not going to be very likely anymore.
My love for Motherwell FC remained a constant through my teenage years, and when I was at university, I developed a love of travelling to away matches or even to random grounds on free weekends. I loved visiting grounds like Annfield (Stirling Albion), Brockville (Falkirk), Muirton Park (St Johnstone) and Somerset Park (Ayr Utd) and even had a day trip on the train from Glasgow on the West Highland Line once to see a match at snowy Fort William.
I moved down south to Lancaster to train as a primary school teacher in 1987, and soon found that I was going to struggle to continue watching football of the relatively high standard that I’d grown accustomed to. I first visited Morecambe FC at Christie Park for a match against Goole Town and was shocked on arrival at 2.30pm to be the first paying spectator. I was joined by 223 other hardy souls, and the football on offer was very poor indeed. Lancaster City the following week was even worse and I recall feeling thoroughly miserable at the low standard in the area. I even tried Preston once, but that was rather a long journey and didn’t feel like home.
It was to be several years before I finally settled on supporting Morecambe. It was partly because by then, I was working at Lancaster Road Primary School, adjacent to the Christie Park ground (now Sainsbury’s) and partly because of the wonderful programme shop, where I was able to develop my growing programme collection with issues from many non-league clubs.
I’m proud to say that I have enjoyed seeing Morecambe rise from the depths of the Northern Premier League to where they are now. I took my baby son James to his first match in his buggy on 15th April 2000, and I’m thrilled to say that he is now as passionate about football as I am. He, like me, writes an article for the Morecambe programme which is so expertly edited by Derek Quinn. Seeing the Shrimps win at Wembley against Exeter to qualify for the Football League remains my joint proudest footballing day alongside seeing my first love Motherwell win the Scottish Cup against Dundee United at Hampden in 1991 (that was another memorable day trip on the train).
And as a teacher with a love of sport, I have been able to share my love of football with many boys and girls in the area. I have been privileged to see former pupils Neil Uberschar, Jodie Woodburn, Sarah Gardner and Ryan Elderton go on to play football at a high level locally, and long for the day when one of my pupils goes on to become a professional or even an international. Lancaster Road have always been there or thereabouts in football tournament over the years. Earlier this year, my team won the William Smith Easter Festival at Giant Axe and the shield stands proudly in the entrance foyer to school, alongside the Athletics trophy which I cherish the most, when my team of athletes won the Lancashire Indoor Athletics title, the pinnacle of my sports career.
And so as I enter my fifties, my footballing life continues to develop. The Beautiful Game has given me many memories so far, as a fan and as a coach…long may it continue to do so.