Natalie Pike (My day out to Southport) with Hyde FC

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The person that does the Hyde FC twitter deserves a raise, a promotion or at least some kind of twitter medal. It is now the 27th most followed official club account in the country and is one of the reason I love twitter and football!

Having followed the account for a few weeks and the misfortunes of the club on the field I felt I simply had to go along and watch a game. So when my friends and I realised that on the same day City were not playing, Hyde were having a day out to Southport it felt like fate.

Prior to moving to Manchester when I was 10 and having my season ticket at Manchester City for 15 years, I was a regular match goer of Berwick Rangers, a club in the Scottish 3rd division. With an average attendance of about 300 at home, I was once also in an away crowd of 14 people plus a dog. My Dad has always instilled in me the importance of grassroots football or what he would call ‘real’ football, so I was pretty excited about going to watch my first Skrill premier league game of the season.

Having mentioned on twitter that I was planning to watch the game I got into some playful banter with the Hyde account that ended up with me, some how jokingly saying if they won the game that I would do a team talk in my Bikini. It‘s fair to say my friends were not surprised about this as I do have a tendency to speak first and think later….

When travelling to City away games I usually travel by coach or occasionally on a packed train and so it was lovely to board the train for Southport at Piccadilly and have a seat the whole journey! It seemed the Hyde massive must be travelling by a different means.

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Arriving at the ground was a delight to see no long queues or any queues actually and no stewards eager to check my handbag or pat us down. Paying your money at the gate and wandering relaxingly in is the real way to do it. The away end at Southport is an open terrace with no roof, so I’m thankfully it didn’t rain. Massive respect to any fans that stand in the rain on a freezing afternoon in Southport! Standing up to watch a full game of football was with out doubt a welcomed novelty for us premier league fans and brought back fond memories of standing with my Dad and brother to watch Berwick growing up. I certainly hope that one day safe standing can be brought back into premier league grounds, it would be a much welcomed addition.

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Myself and my friends Dan and Deano made up part of the 37 strong away force, who welcomed us with open arms and it took only a few minutes for the first Bikini related song to start!! Through out the game the Hyde fans were thoroughly entertaining, my favourite moment being when a Southport shot went flying over the stand and in perfect sync the Hyde fans immediately began singing a chorus of ‘Swing low sweet chariot’.

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I have often wondered if the players can hear the fans during the game and if they take note on what is being sung or said. In the Skrill premier league when you are no more than 5 meters from the pitch they certainly can! During the 2nd half one of the Hyde fans made a slightly negative comment to one of his own players, who turned round an questioned what he said! Now that is real personal connection!

To get the full Southport experience I opted for a tasty meat and potatoe pie at half time for a very reasonable £2 and a brew in a delightful larger than normal paper cup. Result!

I’m not ashamed to say I did spend a nervous 40 minutes after Hyde scored the opening goal and even started imagining what I would say in my first ever team talk. I was on the verge of a Braveheart style inspirational moment, in my head at least, when Southport popped up and ruined the nations hopes of a first Hyde win of the season.

The only downside of my day came though from a small minority of what I can only call small minded and well probably small all over men, who still in 2014 can not get there little brains around the idea of female officials. I was delighted when referee Amy Fearns ran out on the pitch at the start of the game. The first ever woman to officiate in the football league and with over 20 years refereeing experience, 10 in the football conference alone, I am saddened that people still feel the need to question her abilities purely based on her sex. Through out the game I heard the occasional comment from both sets of fans like, ‘get back to the kitchen’ ‘slag’ ‘Whore’ etc etc. I am sure some of these were said in jest and most likely in an attempt to wind me up, however I wasn’t laughing.
The worst though coming as we left the ground and 2 men were having a discussion about what they called the worst referee performance they have ever seen. 1 of them went onto say ‘she is only here because the FA have to be seen to have some of them doing it’. For reference it was a standard refereeing performance, with a few decisions that could have gone either way and a Southport playing being rightly sent off.

All in all though it was a great day, the humour and banter was first class, the football was a good standard and I don’t have to where my Bikini in public, woop!

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Next time City don’t play on a Saturday I will certainly be going to watch Hyde again or perhaps a different local non-league team and I can recommend and encourage all you other premier league fans to do the same.

P.S 3 days after my trip to Southport, Hyde did chalk up their first win of the season and no my bet was still not standing at the time!

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