If you spotted someone using a white stick bumping their way through a match day crowd you may ask your mate  ‘Why do the visually impaired’ go to football?  I’ll put money on the reply being that ‘they enjoy the atmosphere’.

I do, but more than that I go for the bizarre coincidences.

I’m visually impaired, I can’t see out of my right eye and although I have some vision  in my left it’s neither here or there. For example the kids learned early on that they could drag out games of hide’n’seek by simply being quiet and sitting still.  As long as they turned the volume down on their  ipads they could remain where they were happily playing Minecraft while I scoured the house genuinely impressed by their illusiveness.

But I do still like going to the game, yes there’s the mystical ‘atmosphere’ that all VI people crave but to be honest it’s the things that surround the game I enjoy most.  I like going down on the train with  friends, I like meeting my dad and brother, having a few pints and a laugh, a bit of a sing-song during  the game and then the reverse on the journey home.  I said years ago that it wouldn’t matter if it was tiddlywinks or ballet going on in front of me as long as we had a good day out.

That’s when things go right.

Normally I travel with my guide dog, technically he’s my son but he does all the directing, pushing, pulling and warning of equal to ANY Labrador and seeing as I don’t have to pick up his turds he’s my favourite choice when it comes to ‘trusty companion’.

Last week though I was faced with a dilemma.  We were all set to make the short hop from East Kilbride to Motherwell for the Keith Lasley’s testimonial match against the mighty Bolton Wanderers, when disaster struck. As we were rushing out of the door a couple of his mates called round and asked if he wanted to go out and play. He had a tough decision to make.  I don’t blame him for going to the park with his mates – it was a sunny day and to be honest given the same offer I’d have done the same.  I swithered about going but with a ‘Stop moaning, I’ll be fine’ to my missus I set off for my first solo trip to a football game for about 20years.

As soon as I opened my mouth I knew I shouldn’t have asked the two old women sat behind me if the bus went past the ground.  I was subjected to a 20 minutes conversation about the highways and byways of Lanarkshire without hope of any genuine help and when they punted me off  on Hamilton Road West I could just sense I wasn’t quite as close to the ground as their ‘half a mile’ promise.

Two jakies pointed me ‘that way’ and before I knew it I was walking down an unpaved dual carriage way with cars whizzing past, blowing horns with drivers shouting warnings/abuse.  Luckily a bus inspector grabbed me,  huckled me (and he really did ‘huckle me’) on to another bus before I became this week’s reason for a one minute silence at all grounds up and down the country.

The driver dropped me as near to Fir Park as he could and asked a couple of passing Motherwell fans if they’d help me make it the last 500 yards.  As we walked we chatted, there are a few Motherwell fans in work and hopefully I was going to bump into one as he lives in Eaglesham and would surely give me a lift home.

Just as I said that who should pop up but Mr Eaglesham himself.  We went for a pre-match pint in the Davie Cooper Bar where I was to meet my mate from Bolton and he was meeting his mate from Edinburgh.

More of that in a bit.

In the bar I spoke about my stroll along the fast lane of the M74, dropping several hints that I would have to do the same to get home.  All this went over my mate’s head.  I even came out and said it ‘What are you doing after the game?  How are you getting home?’ to which he replied ‘Going straight back to Eaglesham’ and ‘driving’ without batting an eyelid.

Perhaps he thinks the blind enjoy stumbling around strange towns, standing at bus stops and dicing with death?

One of my first ever games was a testimonial between Bolton Wanderers and Liverpool.  I have two memories from that game.  One was us bringing out the Second Division trophy which was dwarfed by Liverpool’s European Cup and Ray Clemence catching, then bouncing the ball into the net to level the scores at 5-5.  It was something for the fans.

This game however? Jesus Christ.  Bolton fielded a team of injury returnees, youth teamers and this young lad called Emile Heskey. Motherwell couldn’t break us down and the game was played out more like a dull reserve team fixture than a light hearted kick about with both teams trying to give the fans something to cheer about, like a few goals.

As the final whistle blew I made one last futile attempt to cadge a lift back to East Kilbride before admitting defeat and making my own way home.  On the bus.  Two busses to be precise – I mean, for eff’s sake – you have to drive through EK to get to Eaglesham – what the hell?

I’ll let it go.  It was worth it for what follows.

I’ve already told you that I literally bumped into my so called ‘mate’?  As well as supporting the Steelmen he also follows Aston Villa.  He’d arranged to meet the head of the AVFC Scotland Supporters Club.  As we walked in to the bar where I’d arranged to meet my mate from Bolton we saw them both  sat at the same table.  Turns out that these two lads went to Uni together and were best of pals!  That’s not all,  my mate had brought his dad with him.  His dad grew up in a place called Little Hulton, at 33 Westway – the very same house that is now owned by my mum and dad!

Now you tell me to be part of that didn’t merit me almost making orphans out of my kids?

Whether it merited me telling you all that is another story.

Tony Coffey
Born in Salford, Tony Coffey shunned the glory hunters of Old Trafford and the Chip on the Shoulders of Maine Road and joined the World Wearies on the crumbling terraces of Burnden Park.

After surviving a brush with Stuart Hall on his first visit to Bolton he's stuck with the Trotters though thin, thick and now back to thin.

Creator of the fanzine The Normid Nomad he now lives in East Kilbride where he spends his days brainwashing his son into the ‘joys’ of being a Super White. If you want to see a winning team then go and watch United or Chelsea. If you enjoy being miserable then come and watch Bolton. Come on you Whites!


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