Viv & Betty's Pilgrimage
Last season, we visited all 20 clubs playing in the Premier League. There were early mornings, cold evenings, late nights and a few tantrums in between. So, when we heard about two friends Shelley & Emily who plan to visit all 92 - respect was certainly due. We caught up with the girls (who use their middle names to front the project) to chat about their Football Mission....
TFG: Thanks for taking the time to talk to us ladies! Could you let us know a little bit about yourselves, and how you started @vivandbettyspilgrimage?
Shelley (Viv): We had the idea to start our journey when we went to see Hartlepool v Chesterfield in 2012 - just for a day out. We had a few cans on the short train journey there, watched a bit of Liverpool's FA Cup semi final win against Everton in a pub next to the station then made our first visit to Victoria Park. I remember dropping a lot of pie crumbs in my pint at the ground that day. It was actually a couple of years later that we decided we'd like to visit all the grounds. That was after a trip to the Stadium of Light in which Emily's second (Man Utd) and third (Sunderland) favourite teams had drawn 1-1. I was thinking it would be nice to travel further than Sunderland in the weeks between Newcastle games. And not so secretly hoping to sample the pie offering at grounds around the country.
My interest in football began from birth. I'm a Newcastle fan and went to my first game when I was 7. We lost 1-2 to QPR so my expectations have never been too high.
Emily (Betty): I’m actually the black sheep of a rugby loving family. I spent every Saturday of my childhood at the local rugby union club, but Doncaster Rovers youth players used to come to my primary school and ‘coach’ us. They didn’t show up a few times so as an apology the club let us all go to a game for free. I was about 7, too, and I loved it. I’ve been hooked on football every since. Although I have to admit I was firstly a Man United fan largely due to Doncaster not being in the football league for most of my childhood!
TFG: How many clubs have you been to so far? Are you going league by league, or geographical?
S: We've only been to 19. We're definitely not aiming to cross them off quickly and there's not a lot of logic behind the order either. We keep an eye out for opportunities to see two / three grounds in a weekend without too much travelling. We also went to see matches at the Boleyn Ground and White Hart Lane before they closed. That really just added an extra 2 to the 92! Let's say it's a long-term plan.
E: We like to also go to local, non-league teams (there’s loads in the North East), or, if we’re on holiday we’ve been known to check out the local stadiums. I lived in Australia for 8 months and when Shelley came over to visit me we went to see Melbourne Victory vs Sydney at the interesting looking AAMI Park. It was good fun and we got to see the legend that is Alessandro del Piero. I’d say Victory are my fourth team now!
TFG: What’s been your favourite club so far, or your most unexpected favourite?
S: Having plenty opportunity to visit a 50,000-seat stadium, I think I look forward to smaller clubs the most. And a prefer a ground with a lot of history. So Gigg Lane and Turf Moor were highlights for me. Both visits were on a sunny but crisp autumn day. I'm sure that helped.
E: We both loved our trip to Bradford’s Valley Parade, too, and wrote an article for their brilliant fanzine The City Gent. The people were so friendly and for me, that is what a proper old fashioned football stadium should be like; in the heart of the community, with a sense of history, and just a great looking stadium before all these identikits started being made.
TFG: Have you noticed any differences between the leagues - if so, what?
S: I think it's harder to feel the atmosphere when there's empty seats in a stadium but when you do hear fans of League 1 and League 2 teams singing their hearts out, that's always a big plus point when we rate our trips. I'd like to see more of a difference in ticket prices. I think you'd see fuller stands if it didn't cost £25 to support a League 2 team.
E: I agree, it’s far too pricey and I’ll never understand the logic of not offering lower priced tickets in exchange for a full stadium. There’s a lot of ‘huff it forward’ in league 2, but it’s still a relatively high level of football. Mostly.
TFG: How are you documenting your journey?
S: A combination of spreadsheets, bar charts and social media. My contribution to that is as haphazard as the order we're visiting stadiums. As long as I have tickets, photographs and memories, I'm happy.
E: I tend to do live match updates (sometimes with photos) on Twitter if I can get a signal inside the grounds. Doing that has actually given us a really good way of communicating with the fans of those clubs as people tend to follow their teams on Twitter.