John Norman recently celebrated his 45th year as a Workington Reds supporter, a commendable milestone considering the ups and downs of the club throughout the seventies, eighties, nineties and two decades of the 2000s.
Even more remarkable, though, is the fact that John is a Leicestershire man, born and bred, and his support for Reds has flourished whilst living 237 miles from Borough Park.
Also known as Lester Red, John (pictured) takes up the story.
“I’ve always had a deep interest in most sport with football, cricket and speedway my main passions. As well as travelling to watch Reds, I’ve got a season ticket for Grace Road (Leicestershire CCC), and Leicester Speedway, although neither are much good at the moment. I also travel abroad supporting the England cricket team and, to date, have been to Australia, Sri Lanka and South Africa.”
His interest in Workington AFC began one Sunday morning in 1975 whilst browsing the football results.
“I remember comparing the attendance at Borough Park with the other games in the Fourth Division and thinking, if anyone needs support they do. As it happened, Reds were playing at Doncaster Rovers the following week so my mate and I decided to go. And that was the start.
“It was fairly uninspiring 0-0 draw at the old Belle Vue ground but I was hooked. I went to Mansfield Town a fortnight later to see us lose 1-0 and I’ve been going ever since. The first Workington goal I saw was at Northampton Town early in the ’75-76 season, Dave Murray on target in a 2-1 defeat. I always remember the pen-pictures in the programme and all it said about Dave was that ‘he plays cricket as well’.
“The first time I got to Borough Park was towards the end of the penultimate season in the Football League and we lost 3-0 to Bradford City, although it could have been worse as we had been thrashed 7-1 by Barnsley the week before!
“I’ve have travelled all over the place watching the Reds getting to most, or as many, away matches as possible and I try to do the 460 miles round trip to Borough Park at least twice a season. Quite a few games stand out for different reasons including a 5-0 defeat at Brentford on a rainy Monday night, the Trophy matches at Wimbledon and Stevenage, a Cumberland Cup match at Kirkoswald and a game a bit nearer home – the FA Trophy tie at Rothwell Town. The latter game was memorable not only because we won 7-1 but it was also the first game I’d taken my daughter, Sam, to. She was twelve at the time and came away thinking we won 7-1 every week!”
John played a bit of football (and cricket) at a decent level and, as a forward himself, has had a soft spot for Reds’ goal scorers over the years.
“Apart from Dave Murray, my favourite players have been the likes of John ‘Smudger’ Smith, Martin Henderson, Craig Johnston (who once broke Sam’s sunglasses with a wayward shot at Tamworth), Jonny Wright, Gareth Arnison and, currently, Scotty Allison.
“However, without a doubt, my all time favourite Reds player was Tony Hopper. What a player, what a Gent. I’ll never forget how wonderfully kind he was to Sam when, for her birthday, I arranged for her to be the mascot in a home match against Blyth Spartans. He is sorely missed but will never be forgotten.”
John is now taking his passion for the club one giant step further and, since retiring recently, has been spending countless hours scouring newspaper archives and other outlets researching the history of the original Workington AFC with the intention, ultimately, of compiling a book on the subject.
The Workington AFC website will feature John’s work in a serialised format over the next few weeks and we wish him well with his ambitious project.