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Testing fan loyalties to the limit

Football fans are tribal by nature. But their loyalties can be stretched.

Supporter-driven clubs such as AFC Wimbledon and FC United of Manchester were started because the fans objected to what was happening to the club they had been paying their hard-earned cash to support.

Fans of Blue Square Bet Premier Division Hayes and Yeading United have had their loyalties tested, first by a merger and currently by being forced to watch 'home' games at Woking FC.

Hayes and Yeading fan Dave Porter, 44, is a sales manager for a printing company and has been following his club's fortunes for 35 years.

He lives in Berkshire, works in Hertfordshire and travels to Surrey to watch his team's home games. Not forgetting long away trips to watch his side play at places like Gateshead, Fleetwood and Wrexham. His son Daniel Porter (pictured - aged 12 at the time - celebrating after Hayes and Yeading's Blue Square South play-off final win against Hampton and Richmond in 2009) tags along too.

Porter (senior) was a Hayes fan prior to the merger (and, as he explains, still is). He talked to Total Football editor Mark Roach about why he has put up with the changes at his club. 

How long have you been a Hayes fan? 

I started going to watch Hayes at around the age of nine. 

What were your initial thoughts when you heard about the merger with Yeading? And what are your thoughts about it now?

My initial reaction was complete shock and a feeling that we had lost our club. But over time and with success on the pitch, the merger has been a bit more palatable. I will be honest though, if you ask the original Hayes fans who we support, most of us will only say Hayes - myself included.

What do you think the advantages of the merger have been?

Garry Haylock was appointed the first ever manager of the new club and the big advantage he had from day one was to cherry pick the best players from each squad and, with a few additional signings, we always had a competitive squad of players. Also, we had been told that both clubs had been struggling financially, so in theory a merger has kept both clubs alive.

What have been the down sides of the merger?

Our wonderful ground Church Road was always a key part of the merger and has now been knocked down, to build a housing estate. Also, crowds never really got any bigger, as many fans refused to accept the merger and now some fans refuse to travel to Woking's ground, which is our new home for one season while our new stadium is being built.

Why did you first start supporting Hayes?

It was easy to get to and good value for money.

What is it about supporting Hayes / Hayes and Yeading that appeals to you?

I love the banter with the fans, it is always the same old faces. Unlike going to Manchester United, if you don't get to a Hayes match, people notice you are not there. The manager, directors and players are always happy to have a chat with fans.

Where is the furthest you have travelled to see a Hayes or Hayes and Yeading game?

Gateshead away, match got abandoned on 80 minutes after a serious injury.

What were the highlights of supporting Hayes before the merger?

Always enjoyed the FA Cup runs and my biggest highlight was going to Craven Cottage and seeing us beat Fulham.

What have been the highlights of supporting Hayes and Yeading since the merger?

It has to be the night we beat Hampton and Richmond in the Blue Square South play-off final and won promotion to the Blue Square Premier.

What are the big differences with supporting your team in the Blue Square Bet Premier compared to Blue Square Bet South?

Ticket prices at some of the grounds are a joke, some clubs think they are in the Championship. Travel costs have gone up also.

You are facing a difficult year - what are your views on ground sharing with Woking?

It's not ideal, but they are nice hosts and the stadium is excellent. It is for only one season, so let's just get on with it.

What do you think the short term future looks like for the club?

It's looking good indeed, we've got a popular new manager with an excellent squad of players.

And the long term?

We need to stay in this league and maybe get a nice FA Cup run to give our club a bigger profile.

How is the future of non league football looking?

The future looks good. With Premier League clubs charging £50 plus for a ticket it has become unaffordable to many. I hope this can encourage more fans to go to local matches.

Why should someone support their local non league team?

Just go along and experience the non league scene, you will love it!

What's the best away ground you've visited?

I always enjoyed the St Albans stadium, but parking was a nightmare.

Who is the best player you have seen play for Hayes or Hayes and Yeading?

I always enjoyed watching Josh Scott, who is now playing for Dagenham. A great player who could score some wonderful goals.

Who is the best player you have seen playing against Hayes / Hayes and Yeading?

I always hated seeing Richard Pacquette on the opposition team sheet, he would always score against us. But we manage to stop him this season as we have signed him!

Best Hayes / Hayes and Yeading game you have ever seen?

Away to Eastleigh in the second leg of the play-off semi-final. We were fantastc and turned around a two-goal deficit. The Hayes travelling army went wild with celebration at the end of the match.

And the worst?

Gateshead away. The long day was ruined by the early finish.


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