Is this Hartlepool man Britain’s biggest football fan?

Avid football fan John Dawson surrounded by match memorabilia.
Avid football fan John Dawson surrounded by match memorabilia.

Football superfan John Dawson is all set for another season of clocking up the miles in his 58th year of watching matches galore.

The Hartlepool soccer afficionado has travelled the length and breadth of the country, as well as overseas, to watch the sport he adores.

Avid football fan John Dawson surrounded by match memorabilia.

Avid football fan John Dawson surrounded by match memorabilia.

He has often been seen on his Honda 90 motor bike heading for the railway station before swapping it for a train to some far-flung field for a game.

These days, its the non-league games which attract his interest and he is planning trips to Hartley Wintney of Hampshire (in the Evo-Stik South East League), Kidlington FC in Oxfordshire (the Evo-Stik South West League), and both Blyth Town and Seghill in Northumberland. There’s plenty more besides and lots more have gone before.

The retired postman has been to 13 countries including Malta, Germany and Belgium and has already taken in two European ties this season - Linfield and Crusaders in Belfast.

He has lost count of how many miles he has clocked up or how much he has spent in getting to them.

I keep all the games in chronological order and I keep them all upstairs in the bedroom - football matches, all the magazines

John Dawson

But he does remember the time a national newspaper dubbed him the daftest fan in Britain and gave him £100.

The honour came after he went to a Newcastle match, away at Plymouth. He set off early on his trusted Honda but he took a wrong turning at York. It meant he was running late.

The journey became even more bizarre when he parked up at Leicester for the night and found a policeman examining his bike. “He wanted to know what a Honda with a Durham plate was doing in Leicester at midnight. I told him I was on the way to Plymouth,” said John.

Later in the journey, he had to push the bike up a hill it couldn’t manage in Bath but did get to Plymouth in time to see Newcastle win 4-3.

Avid football fan John Dawson surrounded by match memorabilia.

Avid football fan John Dawson surrounded by match memorabilia.

On another occasion, he was a winner again. He took first prize in the half time raffle at Nelson in Lancashire and had to strap his winnings - a chicken - to his motor bike for the journey home.

John was a determined follower of football and no obstacle was too great.

He once ran in the first ever Hartlepool half marathon and finished 468th out of 2,500 runners in 1 hour 28 minutes. It was quick enough to give him half an hour to get to the match.

In 1966, he went to every World Cup venue including Roker Park and Ayresome Park as well as Wembley, and did the same in the Euro 96 tournament.

He was at Pools when they played Manchester United.

Sometimes, he would be on the move for 34 hours just to get to a game and back.

In one season alone, back in 1991-92, he went to 275 league and non-league games.

John, from the Owton Manor area of town and who celebrated his 76th birthday recently, said: “I have started to do non-league only.”

Swallownest v Winterton Rangers - in a match five miles south east of Sheffield - was on his agenda for this Saturday (aug 5).

He’s also compiled a list of teams in the south east he needs to visit to keep up his record of visiting evry ground in the top echelons of league and non-league football.

John started to keep records of the matches he has visited in 1959-60. By 1976, he had covered more than 300,000 miles.

And when asked if it is time to call it a day, he stated: “Definitely not. I will keep going for as long as I can.”