Heed Army to All, Yes Indeed
OR... WHY DO WE HAVE A LINK TO A SEVENTH DIVISION ENGLISH CLUB OVER ON THE BLOGROLL?
About two weeks ago I got an email from a guy named David. He had stumbled upon the site, and wanted to trade links between the Heed Army blog and The DCenters. In full confession, I had never heard of Gateshead, or Gateshead FC, but I went over, took a look, and figured why the hell not. I'm always a little careful, since I don't want to link to any fan site whose supporters fall into the racist, bigoted, violent types, but the Heed Army, despite the somewhat right-wing assigning of ranks and militaristic nature, seemed harmless enough. Not only that, I was taking a perverse joy in finding not only a European based team, but an English soccer team, that even Kansas City would outdraw on most nights. Take that Euro-posers!
I am now ashamed of that last sentiment. As a soccer fan, even in DC, we take a lot of crap from people at times. Not from true sports fans, but just on a daily basis of "Yeah, I'd rather watch American Football," by well meaning people who can patronize through the rare talent of being able to pronounce capital letters. What must it be like to be a fanatico for a low-level team when you are surrounded by elite clubs everywhere around you? I mean, as I've learned, Gateshead is only a few miles away from Newcastle's grounds. Do fans of EPL teams regard these fans as minor amusements, the same way a Yankees fan would regard a fan of the Savannah Sand Gnats? How odd it must be to devote yourself to a team that seems so far from the top within your own country... within your own county even? How odd... and how inspiring.
Suddenly, I realized that I admired these fans. They are devoted to their team, and passionate and hardcore as any. They demand excellence from their manager, and their ownership. They, too, are waiting for a new stadium (a new 5,000 seat one should open for the 07-08 Season).
I've often written that saying of any team "here are the best fans in US Soccer" is silly, since the best fans, the honest fanaticos, are everywhere in MLS and the USL. I also happen to believe that DC United has more of them than most, and are better organized than most, but I'm not going to say that our most passionate fans are better fans than LA's, or RSL's, or even New York's. Add the Heed Army to that list of fans, the elite passionate supporters whose devotion must be regarded with awe and, perhaps, a bit of fear.
Once I realized this, I knew that, at some point in my life, I want to see this team play at their new stadium. I'm not heading to Europe anytime soon, but when I do, I want to make a pilgrimage to Gateshead and greet the Heed Army. I want to see the Angel of the North (above right) that is shown in their emblem. I'd like to see Steve Salvin and Davie Southern (left) humiliate Matlock. And perhaps grab a drink at the Newcastle Quayside. And I want to thank the Heed Army for reminding me, once again, what it is I love about being a true passionate supporter of a team. Heed Army to all, and good luck. I see that Wigan Athletic once passed through this conference, and I imagine some year soon you'll cross paths with Leeds.