The love for your football club is, however many times we may wish otherwise, unbreakable.
It will let you down time and time again and leave you in tears. It will make you fork out hard earned cash week after week, year after year. It will put you through the mill and never apologise, just take your love for granted.
But it will, on the rarest of occasions, fill you with pure elation and have you crying tears of joy. It will make you cheer until your voice becomes hoarse and clap until your palms turn red.
Our lives have us walking different paths, whether it be five miles down the road or across the other side of the Atlantic. But it makes no difference where the journey takes you, you can’t shake off your football club, no matter how big, no matter how small. Chester FC is no different.
Prior to Chester’s clash with Sutton United last month, the Chronicle met up with some of the Exiles to find out why the bond remains so strong despite the many miles in between.
“The aim initially was to share travel costs to away matches but it ended up snowballing into something bigger and more organised and it just took off from there,” said Steve Mansley, one of the original founders of the Chester Exiles supporters group along with Richard Hanford, Ian Riley and Rick Goby, who started the group after a chat during an away game at Oxford United in 1983.
“We were bottom of the league and we formed the southern branch in November 1983. This was a time in the late 70s/early 80s when a lot of people from Chester moved down to London for work. It used to be 20 or 30 people turning up at some random away games and we started to do things like sponsoring matchballs. It was an unusual concept at that time.”
Wherever Chester are in action away from the Lookers Vauxhall Stadium then it is a good bet that there will be more than a few Exiles in attendance to stand on the terraces alongside those hardy fans who travel the length and breadth of the country of a weekend on board the Hipkiss Express.
There are a band of Blues fans who are spread out across the UK and beyond and, while they may not be there to make their voices heard at home, they are a vital support to the club on the road. It isn’t just their support on match days either. The Exiles have mobilised on more than one occasion to aid the cause of both Chester City and Chester FC.
“We are an organised group and when the new club was formed we were very involved,” said Sue Choularton, a long-time member of the Exiles.
“We did things like meeting with kit suppliers in London and the likes of AFC Wimbledon helped us.
“We don’t want to just be seen as happy clappers, and it’s a phrase that gets bandied about. People feel focused when they have something to campaign against, I suppose. It’s like in the days of the ISA (Independent Supporters Association) when we were campaigning against Terry Smith, we have to be all together with one objective. The aim is to make sure this football club can compete at the highest level.”
Sue herself moved down to London from Chester in the 1980s after leaving her role on the Chester Chronicle’s ‘Tonight’ newspaper. And in those halcyon days before the advent of Twitter and Facebook, the Exiles provided her with a link to her Blues roots.
“I moved down to London for a new job and that was when Steve told me about the Exiles,” added Sue.
“This was in the time before the internet and social media and things like that. I would get a newsletter posted to me that would keep me in touch with what was happening at the football club.
“With the new Chester we basically include everyone who is outside a CH postcode, they automatically become a member of the Exiles. We have about 40 or 60 active members who are at away games.
“As well as coming to games we are also in a darts league in London where we play against other teams of exiled fans. It is thriving and we actually managed to achieve promotion last season.
“I think we do get a slightly different view point as those who might live close to the football club. But it is one of those things where you just can’t stop supporting the club. It’s where you are from and it’s part of who you are.
“There were four original founders of the Exiles, one of which is our treasurer (Ian), and he lives in Perth (Scotland). We went to Southport for the FA Cup, it was terrible, but there he was. We went to Maidstone and there he was again with his family."
Exiled Cestrian Peter Jones, now living in Sussex, first began his love affair with the football club in the 1960s after being taken to Sealand Road to watch the Blues by his father.
“My dad took me in the 62/63 season, that’s why I’m a supporter,” said Peter.
“I was born inside the city walls and my dad could have taken me anywhere. He could have taken me to Everton, Liverpool or Manchester United but he took me to Chester as that is what you did, you went to support your local club and we need to make sure that it is a tradition that is carried on.
“I moved away and buy a couple of season tickets to a season to try and support the club, even though I can’t get to many home games. I have taken the club with me wherever I have been and it has been a huge part of my life."