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Thursday, August 2, 2012
IF there is one thing Eddie Hanton is not, it is a glory hunter.
For the 80-year-old football fan has devoted 66 years of drizzly Saturdays to watching non-league Great Yarmouth Town FC in action - making him the club’s longest serving fan.
He admits it is not always a pretty sight, and the Bloaters finished bottom of the Ridgeons League Premier Division last season, but his loyalty to them is unfaltering.
The former food canning factory worker’s love for the struggling club is so great that he wants his ashes to be scattered on the pitch when he dies.
He married his wife June on a weekday in 1956 so he did not have to miss a match, and he goes for morning walks around the club’s Wellesley Recreation Ground as he cannot get enough at matches.
And when his family told him they had arranged his birthday celebrations at the Wellesley, he was over the moon.
The great grandfather, of Bradwell, is celebrating his 80th birthday today.
He said: “I think I’m the longest serving supporter of the club - there was someone else but he’s about a year behind me. I’ve been going since 1946 when I was 14.
“Throwing my birthday party at the Wellesley is the best thing I could have - I couldn’t ask for anything better.
“I shall keep going there until they put me in my grave.”
Mr Hanton explained none of his family were football fans when he was growing up, but he got the bug from his workmates.
“I went to work at Jewsons when I was 14, and half of the blokes used to support Gorleston and half supported Yarmouth - and I lived in Yarmouth,” he revealed.
“Just after the war you got gates of 3,000 as you had no TV so your thing was the football games.
“We only get 60 or 70 now on rainy days.”
He recalled crowds of up to 5,000 for derby matches against Gorleston - “the enemy in green” - and made sure he got to as many matches as he could.
“I’ve not seen every game but I’ve never missed an entire season,” he said. “When I did my national service I came back on leave from Germany for a fortnight and I would see the matches then.
“My mother always sent me the Pinkun and I would keep up regular with the Bloaters.”
The former Lowestoft Co-op cannery worker added the team know him so well he travels to away matches in their minibus.
And his eyes light up when he remembers his favourite season of supporting the club.
“The best season was when I was working at the old Yarmouth power station at the seafront and we finished runner up to Cambridge,” he sighed. “I think it was 1954.”
He is fiercely proud that the Bloaters have the world’s oldest football stand still in regular use - built in 1892 - and always makes his feelings known.
“We finished bottom last season and I always shout at the manager when they do something wrong,” he explained. “I let them know if they’ve been bad.
“There’s hardly any of us there to do chants - they just hear me with the loudest voice.”
He added he used to have a rattle but “gave it up”.
His wife June, 75, said wearily: “He’s a football fanatic I’m afraid and nothing will alter him.”
Mr Hanton’s 80th birthday is today, and his party at the Wellesley is tomorrow.