Why I Riot: Football and Family

Why I Riot Series post by Timothy Coates 

In my life football and family has been synonymous.  My Dad (Hull City) my brother (Man Utd) and me (Preston NE) will take over the conversation at family dinners with transfer rumours, how bad the England team looks and even some mild/childish trash talk.  Even decades before my birth football played role in my family as my Great Grandfather Billy Greatorex was signed to play for Preston North End in the First Division in 1919 after serving on the frontline in WWI.  In the 1920/21 season he would be part of a team that would make it to the FA Cup semi-finals before being beat by Tottenham Hotspur.  The year later he was sold to Southport FC for a fee of £250, becoming the first player Southport would pay a transfer fee for.  He would go on to play for Chesterfield and Morecambe before succumbing to football related injuries that would later leave him crippled and bound to a wheelchair, which he would take to see Preston North End with my Grandmother and her brothers until his death in 1971, 5 years before my birth.  My Great-Grandfather Billy’s older sister Susannah Greatorex, also played football for the Dick, Kerr’s Ladies FC, a team formed during WWI as a sort of League of their Own team playing for spectators during the war and for charities after it.  It is a great story that you can find here.

My Great Grandfather through my grandmother is why I’m a Preston north End supporter.

Growing up in Hull, Yorkshire, England my Dad was a big supporter of Hull City, the only professional team in the city, and he would follow them home and away.  Travelling by his second hobby, trains, he would go to all end of the United Kingdom and to places such as Southampton, Huddersfield and the Leppings Lane terrace at Hillsborough decades before the tragedy in 1989.  He would tell me of how you could sometimes be carried away in a swarm of supporters in the then very common standing sections all English stadiums had back in the day.  His support of football would have to take a hiatus when he had children and subsequently moved to Ottawa, that had no team in 1981.  It wasn’t until 1987 when the Ottawa Intrepid of the old CSL was established and he could take my brother, sister and I out to matches, that he himself would have done himself back in England.  The fondest memory I have is when Canadian men’s team played Sheffield Wednesday in Hull, Quebec and having no tickets we scaled a fence to watch behind the net.

Later, after the CSL had collapsed and the Ottawa Intrepid fell through, the only consistent football coverage I had was watching Soccer Saturday with Graham Leggat with my brother every, you guessed it, Saturday morning following how are respective clubs had done that day.  To this day there hasn’t been a World Cup or Euro England match my brother and I haven’t watched together, and equally shared the disappointment at the end of every tournament.

Today, with the re-emergence of professional soccer, in the form of the Ottawa Fury FC, I’m able to attend matches and watch away fixtures with my actual family, but also with a group in Stony MondayRiot that, to me, feels like my extended family.  Singing and chanting and laughing for 90 minutes in a group you can be yourself around is one of the highlights of my year.  It’s family and football, what’s better to do for an afternoon or an evening?  That’s why I riot.

Timothy Coates

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