Wakefield AFC's friend from Chattanooga in the USA finds his plans spoiled by good old British weather

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It was quite the round journey for a home game for avid Wakefield AFC fan Ian Webb – and he has more reason than most to curse the good old British weather.

The Express previously featured Ian and his obsession with the upwardly mobile Wakefield team despite living just a few miles away – that’s 4076 miles to be precise as he lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

He said then that his ambition was to come to West Yorkshire to see a game and he achieved it – well a bit of it!

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Ian recently travelled all the way from America to Wakefield to see his beloved side in action only for them to have to postpone that very game in question.

Ian Webb in the Wakefield AFC dugout on his visit from the USA to West Yorkshire.Ian Webb in the Wakefield AFC dugout on his visit from the USA to West Yorkshire.
Ian Webb in the Wakefield AFC dugout on his visit from the USA to West Yorkshire.

All was not entirely lost as he did get to meet fellow supporters who are rather closer to the team’s home and enjoyed his visit to England, which included a look round at the Be Well Support Stadium where Wakefield now play their home matches.

But it was back to Chattanooga with a feeling of disappointment and 1-0 to the British weather unfortunately.

Ian takes up the story: “Chattanooga and Wakefield are 4076 miles apart, so you could say my obsession with the club is rather random. Still, I became a supporter almost two years ago and have been following the club through social media and chatting with local fans online ever since.

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"In particular, the Wakefield AFC Fan Group on Facebook (2.5K members strong) has been a great place to stay up-to-date and connect with the club I love.

Ian Webb with fellow Wakefield AFC supporter Si in the club's changing room.Ian Webb with fellow Wakefield AFC supporter Si in the club's changing room.
Ian Webb with fellow Wakefield AFC supporter Si in the club's changing room.

"While it's great to see the success and growth of the club from afar, it became clear over time that I simply had to visit Wakefield to see the club play with my own eyes.

"Listening to match reports on the ‘All Wakey Aren't We’ podcast and watching fans either celebrate or complain in the Facebook fan group does have a certain authenticity to it, but I wanted to experience the real thing.

"So, I started saving money about 18 months ago to make the long journey to Wakefield.

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"I had planned the entire trip, including plane tickets and hotels, around a Wakefield home match against Shirebrook Town, but also threw in a couple of days in London, Bath and York, so that the trip was worthwhile for my wife as well.

Ian Webb with locals and fellow Wakefield AFC supporters at the Bridge Inn.Ian Webb with locals and fellow Wakefield AFC supporters at the Bridge Inn.
Ian Webb with locals and fellow Wakefield AFC supporters at the Bridge Inn.

"A couple of weeks before the trip, I received word from some of the fans that the match I was traveling halfway across the world to see had been postponed due to a scheduling conflict with the other team.

"Of course, hearing this was pretty disappointing as I had planned the whole trip around that match, but luckily Wakefield had an away game the following Tuesday, so I was able to shift some bookings around and make it work since my flight home wasn't until the following Friday. Crisis averted.”

Ian continued: “Every other part of the trip in the UK went pretty well and I was certainly cautiously optimistic about what Wakefield as a city was like.

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"Upon arrival, a local fan of the club, Rich, and his wife Sam, had me and my wife over for dinner at his house and we were more than honored by the excellent hospitality and food he provided!

"The next day, I walked from the Holmfield Arms Hotel towards the city centre. As I walked, I thought of all the negative things the locals had to say about Wakefield. Things like ‘Why are you visiting Wakefield, of all places?’ or something one of the players told me ‘I wouldn't stop here mate, just drive straight through!’

"I understand that the English sense of humor is a bit drier than I'm used to, but I couldn't help but feel scared that they might be right as I walked closer to the city centre, since nothing seemed special or worth seeing in the city.

"That is, until I got to the other side of the Ridings Shopping Centre, where I saw the real centre of Wakefield, with the cathedral, the shops, and the theatre.

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"There's a whole lot to love about Wakefield and I'd encourage the locals brag about it more! It's a hidden gem with tons to see and great people to meet!”

“After buying some Wakefield AFC merchandise at the Trinity shop in Ridings, I walked back to the hotel as the torrential downpour started. My heart sunk.

"With how bad this rain was, it was clear at that point to me that the match that evening would also inevitably be postponed and it turns out it was.”

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Wakefield AFC find support all the way from Chattanooga

Ian used the spare time he suddenly had by being able to meet more locals as he downed a couple of pints to drown his sorrows with fellow Wakey fans at the Bridge Inn.

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“It's hard to explain, but given that I have British extended family and I was raised with an appreciation of the culture, hanging out with those fans felt like I was at home with people who understand me and my obsession with football,” he said.

"Going on and on with the guys about things like the non-league system and the save percentages of England's goalkeepers was somehow a cathartic experience as someone who's used to being among people who don't have a clue about such topics."

The next day another local fan Si, and his wife Michelle, spent several hours showing the American visitors round the area, first stop being the stadium where Wakefield AFC play along with Wakefield Trinity.

"Si had arranged an exclusive tour of the stadium for us, and it was brilliant,” added Ian.

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"The Trinity staff were incredible. They showed me around, let me sit in the dugout, explore the stadium on my own and even let me mow the grass.

After that, we went to Sandal Castle, which of course has a breathtaking view, and then to the Coal Mining Museum, which was a lot more fun than I expected.

"Still, even after such a great time, it was only bittersweet, especially after traveling such a long way with high hopes of experiencing Wakefield AFC play in person.

"Even though I didn't get to see a match, the trip reminded me that football is more than just the 90 minutes on the pitch; it's about the camaraderie, the shared moments and the connections forged through a mutual love for the game.

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"Thank you to everyone I met in Wakefield. Your kindness is unparalleled.

"One day, I will have enough money saved up to try to make it out to a Wakefield match again, but until then, I hope whoever is reading this will make it out to some matches on my behalf!”

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