04 May 2012

The Ultimate Guide To League One Celebrity Fans

Celebrities love to pledge allegiance to a football team. It makes them look like they enjoy things other than sitting round in their pants Googling themselves or trying to get photographed outside an Essex nightclub with Danny Dyer.

But while it's easy for the likes of Piers Morgan, Prince William or Tony Blair to swan into the executive lounges of Arsenal, Aston Villa or Newcastle respectively, celebrity supporters of lower league clubs are effectively doing the equivalent of agreeing to star in a much-anticipated West End play, only to suffer the crushing disappointment of being booed off the stage every time they perform it.

Here then are the good, bad and Harold Shipman of celebrity League One supporters...

Bournemouth: Matt Tong

Who? One quarter of Brit indie rockers Bloc Party. Drummer Matt was born in Bournemouth and follows the Cherries by watching illegally streamed matches - his words, not mine - in his swanky New York apartment.  
Any other contenders? Back in 1998 TV and radio presenter Jayne Middlemiss inexplicably claimed that, despite being a rabid Geordie, Bournemouth were her team. "They aren't that good but it's fun," she said patronisingly, adding cryptically, "You stand around drinking tea." Though she's apparently never seen supping Tetley at Dean Court these days. 
The one that got away... Actor Christian Bale attended Bournemouth School for six years, though surprisingly his anger management issues are not a result of having to endure Cherries matches as a child - to date he's shown no interest in the club. 

Brentford: Richard Archer

Who?  Were this 2005 then there would be little doubt that Hard Fi frontman Richard Archer was Brentford's most famous fan. Hard Fi aren't doing so well these days, though Archer does still get the nod over purported Bees supporter Cameron Diaz, who would take the number one spot were her claims not, you know, bollocks.
Any other contenders? Were this 1997 then EastEnder Dean Gaffney would have been Brentford's most famous fan. Dean's not doing so well these days either. Sky Sports News' Natalie Sawyer is also a Bee
The one that got away... Big-time author Robert Rankin grew up around Brentford and sets most of his novels there, where the suburb is usually infested with a great evil. Thankfully Gary Alexander has now left for Crawley.

Bury: Danny Boyle 

Who? The Oscar-winning director of Slumdog Millionaire and 28 Days Later. Danny hails from Radcliffe in Lancashire and is such a die-hard fan he once claimed he'd rather Bury won the FA Cup than he win an Oscar. Although never mind Boyle, unfortunately there's more chance of Kerry Katona scooping an Academy Award than seeing Bury mounting the famous Wembley steps.
Any other contenders? DJ, musician, writer, I'm A Celebrity... contestant and all-round idiot Mike Read is also a fan. Meanwhile ex-Hollyoaks star Gemma Atkinson once took time off from trying to marry footballers to appear as a Soccerette sporting a Bury shirt.  
The one that got away... Cheir Blair was born in Bury but brought up just north of Anfield, leaving her a massive dilemma as to whether to support Bury or Liverpool. Well, I say massive...

Carlisle United: Helen Skelton 

Who? "I spend Saturdays at cold football grounds watching people I love get grumpy," said Blue Peter presenter Helen on her love of home club Carlisle United, perfectly encapsulating the joys of League One football in one pithy soundbite.  
Any other contenders? Emmerdale and Dancing On Ice star Roxanne Pallett - Carlisle born and bred - went way beyond the call of duty by briefly dating long-serving defender Peter Murphy in 2009. Meanwhile one-time England cricketer Paul Nixon takes time off from being insane by regularly visiting Brunton Park.   
The one that got away... Big-haired arts luvvy Melvin Bragg was born in Carlisle and followed the Cumbrians as a youngster. However, like a schoolboy who dumps his well-meaning but plain girlfriend for the chance of a snog behind the bike sheds with the class slag, Melvin's head was turned by Arsenal in 1989 and he's been a Gunners season ticket holder ever since.  

Charlton Athletic: Jim Davidson 

Who? No longer allowed on TV due to holding political views slightly to the right of Genghis Khan, instead Jim Davidson vents his sizeable spleen at the Valley of a Saturday afternoon. He occasionally writes a charming blog about the club, containing astute observations such as that a waitress in the executive lounge "looked like she had two spare footballs up her jumper".
Any other contenders? Yep, tennis legend Bjorn Borg is a fan, following in the footsteps of his father, as is TV executive Michael Grade and actor Karl Howman, best known for his role as Jacko in 80s sitcom Brush Strokes.
The one that got away... Actor Daniel Day-Lewis was born in nearby Greenwich, but presumably requiring that There Will Be Blood opted to support Millwall.   

Chesterfield: Tony Benn 

Who? Politician Tony Benn is about the closest Chesterfield get to a celebrity fan, and even then the curmudgeonly pipe-puffer is only the fairest of fair weather supporters. Yes, it would take a freak sub-tropical heatwave to get Tony to a game. Well, that or a general election, for in 1997 the Labour MP for Chesterfield attended the Spireites' FA Cup semi-final against Middlesbrough.
Any other contenders? Nope, although last season England cricketer, purveyor of bad haircuts and die-hard member of the Toon Army Graeme Swann was at the B2Net Stadium to witness Chesterfield be crowned champions of League Two.   
The one that got away... Royal Diana-botherer Paul Burrell was born in nearby Grassmoor but was far too busy stealing things from Buckingham Palace to follow the Spireites. These days his 'rock' is Wrexham Football Club, from where his wife hails.    

Colchester United: Steve Lamacq 

Who? Radio 2 and 6 Music DJ Steve Lamacq has been a Colchester United season ticket holder since 1982, the footballing equivalent of consistently eschewing the Beatles in favour of Chumbawumba.
Any other contenders? Only England cricketer Alistair Cook who, after joining Essex CCC, resisted the many charms of Southend United, Grays Athletic and Dagenham & Redbridge to plump for the occasional trip to see the Us.   
The one that got away... Blur and Gorillaz frontman Damon Albarn spent his formative years in Colchester but clearly didn't subscribe to the idea that There's No Other Way and he opted to support Chelsea.  

Exeter City: Adrian Edmondson 

Who? Comedian, writer and star of Bottom - perhaps appropriately - Adrian Edmondson started supporting the Grecians in 2003 after moving to Exeter. He's stuck by them ever since and said of Manchester United's FA Cup visit in 2005: "Watching Ronaldo taking corner kicks against a sign for 'Ivor Dewdney Pasties' was a thing of great beauty."
Any other contenders? Not many clubs can count Michael Jackson, David Blaine and Uri Geller among their attendance figures, but in June 2002 that very threesome turned up to watch the Grecians. Celebrity psychic Uri Geller was co-chairman at the time and divided his time between burying magic crystals in the turf and annoying the local cafe staff by bending all the cutlery out of shape. "The board are very serious about getting out of Division Three - and I'll do everything I can to help," he said on taking up his new position. And he did indeed help Exeter get out of Division Three: they were relegated to the Conference the next season.  
The one that got away... Legendary funny man Tommy Cooper lived in Exeter from the age of three. And how did he avoid supporting the Grecians? Just like that. 

Hartlepool United: Jeff Stelling

Who? Keen observers of Sky's Gillette Soccer Saturday may have noticed that occasionally Hartlepool-born presenter Jeff Stelling lets his mask of impartiality slip a little, revealing himself to be a Monkey Hanger. Such as during this game...
Any other contenders? Handkerchief-clutching singer Meat Loaf is a bona fide supporter. A family connection? A historical attachment to the area? No, he simply randomly happened upon Hartlepool by flicking through a book and discovering that the city likes to execute monkeys just in case they're French. And what better reason to pledge your allegiance?
The one that got away... Ballet dancer and one-time I'm A Celebrity... prima donna Wayne Sleep lived in Hartlepool for 10 years from the age of three, although preferred pirouettes and pas de deux to pass-and-move and penalties. 

Huddersfield Town: Patrick Stewart

Who? Star Trek actor Sir Patrick Stewart has been on a lifelong mission to explore strange new worlds; to seek out life and new civilisations; to boldly go where no man has gone before... Unfortunately he ended up at the Galpharm Stadium. He's dedicated though, and is even president of the Huddersfield academy.
Any other contenders? Actor Reece Dinsdale is a die-hard fan and even fronts a behind-the-scenes documentary about the club. He starred in Coronation Street for two years as Joe McIntyre, who had a Huddersfield Town sticker on his van and was addicted to painkillers. The two things weren't thought to be related.
The one that got away... Though born and raised just seven miles from Huddersfield, musician and TV presenter Roy Castle clearly wanted his football team to break records. So he supported Liverpool.

Leyton Orient: Julian Lloyd-Webber

Who? World-renowned cellist and brother of slightly more world-renowned Andrew Lloyd-Webber. Julian's credentials as a fan are 100 per cent bona fide: he even named his daughter Jasmine Orienta, at the risk of tarring her with a future in which hardly anyone is interested in her, despite the fact lots of Londoners claim she is their 'second favourite'.
Any other contenders? Though not going to the extreme lengths of his brother, Andrew Lloyd-Webber is also a fan and gets to the odd game a year. Ex-EastEnder Ricky Groves is also fan, as is 90s TV funnyman Bob Mills, a regular at Brisbane Road. Meanwhile Debbie, aka Lydia's mum, from The Only Way Is Essex professes to be a supporter when she's not getting a vajazzle. 
The one that got away... Legendary film director Alfred Hitchcock was born a stone's throw from Brisbane Road in Leytonstone, but was clearly a Man Who Knew Too Much - he elected to support West Ham. 

MK Dons: Jim Marshall

Who? The man who made Marshall the amplifier of choice for rock bands across the world, Jim was an ardent MK supporter from the off, and his company sponsored the clubs' kit in the early days. Sadly Jim passed away in April 2012, which leaves probably Milton Keynes' most famous residents, the concrete cows, as the most likely supporters of note. Captive audience. 
Any other contenders? June Whitfield was a Wimbledon fan back in the day, but has reportedly come down on the AFC side of the argument rather than MK Dons.  
The one that got away... Actor Kevin Whatley - he of Inspector Morse, Lewis and Peak Practice - lives in Milton Keynes but, having thoroughly investigated the football on offer prefers to stick with his boyhood club Newcastle.

Notts County: Harold Shipman

Who? Poor old Notts County fans. Having watched helplessly for decades as soap stars, reality TV contestants and members of fleetingly successful boy bands pledged their allegiance to the other half of Nottingham, finally it emerged that a truly world famous celebrity was a bona fide Magpie. Unfortunately it was actually Britain's most notorious serial killer Harold Shipman.
Any other contenders? No. Shipman's seen to that.
The one that got away... TV celebrity Dale Winton was born in Nottingham but, figuring that you need to be In It To Win It, decided to support Arsenal.

Oldham Athletic: Michelle Marsh

Who? Page three girl, Celebrity Big Brother contestant and the voice behind the number 89 hit I Don't Do, Michelle Marsh is the less successful Katie Price of the north. Oldham born-and-bred, she showed her devotion to the Latics by marrying central defender Will Haining in 2007. 
Any other contenders? Hollyoaks and Emmerdale actor Alex Carter is a fan, as is Brookside/Holby City star Nicola Stephenson. Paul Scholes, meanwhile, demonstrated his lifelong passion for the Latics by refusing to play for them before he retired.
The one that got away... Oldham-born Royle Family actor Ralf Little knows a fair bit about football. That's why he elected to support Manchester United.

Preston North End: Mark Lawrenson

Who? TV pundit, serial miserablist and wearer of retina-burning shirts Mark Lawrenson was born in Penwortham, overlooking Preston and has a been a fan of the Lilywhites ever since. He also played at Deepdale from 1974-77.
Any other contenders? Pedalo operator and sometime cricketer Andrew Flintoff claims to have watched Preston as a lad, having been born in the Lancashire town. He now says he doesn't support a football team. (Which doesn't necessarily rule him out as a Lilywhite... Just kidding.)   
The one that got away... Are You Being Served? star John Inman was born in Preston, but showed about as much interest in the town's football club as he did Mrs Slocombe's pussy. 

Rochdale: Tommy Cannon

Who? The less funny half - these things are relative - of 80s comedy duo Cannon & Ball. Tommy supported the Dale as a kid, and repaid the club for all those lost Saturday afternoons by nearly bankrupting them when he briefly became chairman in 1988.
Any other contenders? Slim pickings really - certainly since elephant-sized Rochdale fan and MP Cyril Smith died last year.
The one that got away... Brookside actress Anna Friel is a daughter of Rochdale and starred in the ultra-realist sports film Goal, but nonetheless claims to be "nonplussed" about football

Scunthorpe United: Ian Botham

Who? The former England cricket legend and advertiser of meat actually played at centre-half for Scunthorpe 11 times in 1980 and has been a die-hard fan ever since. Well, I say 'die-hard', but as a football supporter Beefy is more of a mixed grill: he also claims to back Sunderland, Chelsea and Rangers.
Any other contenders? Former England manager Graham Taylor describes Scunthorpe as "the number one team in the country", perhaps suggesting why he wasn't particularly successful in charge of the national team.
The one that got away... Scunthorpe-born actress Liz Smith, famed for her role as Nana in The Royle Family, clearly couldn't drag herself away from the TV to Glanford Park.  

Sheffield United: Sean Bean

Who? Actor Sean Bean has a tattoo on his left shoulder proclaiming himself to be "100% Blade." And no, it's not a reference to his love of the Wesley Snipes vampire film of the same name. He was once a director of the club; led a delegation to parliament to protest against the club's relegation; and allegedly took out his frustration at poor performances on manager Neil Warnock's five-year-old son. He even scored a penalty against Man Utd in the 1996 film When Saturday Comes.
Any other contenders? In 2007 Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea announced onstage at the Reading Festival he was a Blade, and was recently caught singing United anthem Greasy Chip Butty at a gig.
The one that got away... Iron Maiden singer Bruce Dickinson was brought up in Sheffield but demonstrated just how hard heavy metallers really are by admitting: "Actually football crowds, scare me. I don't get involved in all of that. I can watch them on TV, but if I actually get very near one, I get very scared."

Sheffield Wednesday: David Blunkett

Who? When he's not having extra-marital affairs or fathering illegitimate children, Labour MP and former home secretary David Blunkett spends his time at Hillsborough cheering on the Owls.
Any other contenders? Loads, including Michael Vaughan and Roy Hattersley - though the likes of Michael Palin and Prince Naseem Hamed slightly undermine themselves by also supporting Sheffield United a bit too. Only the Arctic Monkeys, however, have cut highlights of Owls' games into their music videos.
The one that got away... Actor Dominic West - aka McNulty from The Wire - was born in Sheffield but apparently avoids both of the city's teams.  

Stevenage: Ken Follett

Who? Author Ken makes a living from writing popular thrillers, though opts to take a break from all that edge-of-the-seat excitement by watching his local team Stevenage. He became a fan after his wife was elected the town's MP.
Any other contenders? Who needs celebrity fans when your town can lay claim to constructing the first purpose-built, traffic free shopping zone in Britain? Don't answer that.
The one that got away... Harry Potter ginger Rupert Grint was born in Stevenage but instead of supporting his local team he decided to become such a hardcore Spurs fan that until recently he'd never actually been to White Hart Lane. 

Tranmere Rovers: Half Man Half Biscuit

Who? While outsiders might consider Jonathan Dimbleby or Ray Stubbs as more obvious choices, Tranmere Rovers fans' allegiance lies firmly with vaguely-famous band Half Man Half Biscuit. The Merseysiders once turned down an appearance on The Tube as it clashed with a Superwhites' game - despite the fact Channel 4 offered to fly them to the studio by helicopter. Respect.
Any other contenders? Indeed, British acting royalty Glenda Jackson for starters, along with fellow thesp Patricia Routledge, aka Hyacinth Bucket. Rumours that the pair have been teaching the Tranmere players how to convincingly feign injury are as yet unsubstantiated.
The one that got away... Born in Chester but raised on the Wirral, actor Daniel Craig nevertheless decided that when it came to football he'd rather be stirred than shaken and opted to support Liverpool, rather than his local team. 

Walsall: Pete Waterman

Who? The man who inflicted Rick Astley, Steps, Sinitta and Brother Beyond on the world is a die-hard Saddler, despite being born and raised in Coventry. Kylie Minogue's breakthrough record was also courtesy of the Stock Aitken Waterman hit factory. I should be so lucky? Not if you support Walsall, Pete.
Any other contenders? Certainly are, if you scrape the bottom of the barrel for long enough. How about Central Tonight newsreader Bob Warman and one-time Olympic swimmer Nick Gillingham? No?  

The one that got away... Slade frontman Noddy Holder was born in Walsall, but when he wanted to Cum On Feel The Noize opted to throw his lot in with the more vocal supporters of Wolverhampton Wanderers. 

Wycombe Wanderers: Bill Turnbull

Who? The 'embarrassing dad' of the TV world, BBC Breakfast presenter Bill Turnbull, who not only attends games at Adams Park, but commentates on them for Wanderers World.
Any other contenders? Commentator Alan Parry, though a Liverpool fan, is something of a Chairboy and has served as an associate director at the club for many years. 
The one that got away... TV star and celebrity narcissist James Corden was born in nearby Hazlemere, but eschewed the many pleasures of Wycombe Wanderers and instead professes to love West Ham. When he's not loving himself, that is.

Yeovil Town: Paddy Ashdown

Who? When he's not having an affair with his secretary, the former Liberal Democrats leader Paddy Ashdown finds time to take in the odd game at Huish Park.
Any other contenders? Does Vicar of Dibley star Trevor Peacock support the Glovers? No, no, no, no, no... yes. So do actor Nick Berry, comedian/singer Richard Digance and James Purefoy, star of the HBO series Rome. 

The one that got away... British songstress PJ Harvey attended Yeovil College after leaving school, but has shown no interest in football. Not that rules her out as a Glovers fan... Just kidding. 

Hat tip to the following tweeters for their help: 
Bournemouth @NarrowTheAngle / Brentford @TheCondorman / Bury @markcrossley / Carlisle @epouvantail / Chesterfield @awayend / Colchester @Crokey94 / Exeter @gafootbl / Hartlepool @_Monkeyhanger_ / Huddersfield @FootballCharlie / Notts County @StuTNB / Oldham @ianandrewbarker / Rochdale @girlonaterrace / Scunthorpe @mpbell92 / Sheffield United @unitedite / Sheffield Wednesday @obscurefootball / Stevenage @fcboro / Tranmere @paulharper82 / Walsall @BescotBanter / Wycombe @KJ_Funk / Yeovil @benbarrett10
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