Man City fan wins all-expenses paid, 'match-day experience' at Needham Market in wake of Super League dramas
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller
Needham Market first team manager and former Manchester City star, Kevin Horlock, has offered one lucky Man City fan an all-expenses paid 'match-day experience' at Bloomfields next season.
In the wake of the European Super League fiasco, Horlock took to Twitter to offer a non-league day out to any 'former Blues' (Man City fans) who began to follow Southern League Central Premier side Needham Market on Twitter - he was inundated with entrants!
"It was a bit tongue in cheek to begin with to be honest," Horlock, 48, said. "But I'm glad I did it.
"I felt for the City fans with this European Super League, the expense there might be of getting to games, etc., if it went ahead. So I put a tweet out there, why not come to Needham?
"I spoke to the CEO at Needham and he was all for it. So, there was a draw and we are going to pay for someone (a City fan) to have a day out with us at Needham. We will pay travelling expenses, a free ticket for the game, food, drink, signed shirt, a few beers after hopefully a win, and a stay over."
Needham Market, received almost 500 new followers, with one fan chosen at random for the match-day experience. The winner has been announced.
"For me the fans are everything," Horlock continued.
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"I remember as a young boy loving football and if I was ever lucky enough to be in the company of a professional footballer, I was in awe. I would be one of those boys standing to get an autograph, just to get a glimpse of them.
"Just to speak to them, and I took that into my career, at Man City especially.
"In difficult times City fans stuck with us back when I was there, they were unbelievable and we had loads watching us at training - and signing autographs was something I always made a strong point of doing.
"I would stand and sign autographs as long as it took. If there were 1,000 people and it took two hours I'd stand there and sign them all.
"You take away the fans what are you left with? Nothing."
While the Super League may now be crumbling and although a shock to Horlock and many in the football world when it was originally announced, it didn't mean he - again like many others - never saw it coming.
"Yes, it was a shock, but I'm not naive enough to think things like this were not going to get proposed or spoken about," Horlock said.
"I remember going back a few years when the Premier League came about and the Sky deal, it was a very similar situation where the game was trying to evolve.
"Whether we like it or not, football has become one of the biggest businesses. It was always a business, but it was also always a game of the people - the fans - and that's what disappointed me most about the Super League idea."
Horlock, who started his career as a trainee with West Ham United, made almost 500 Football League appearances.
He is a former Northern Ireland international, with 32 caps, and is most associated with Manchester City, for whom he played in three different divisions including the Premier League. He also played for Ipswich Town between 2004-06.
He is Northern Ireland Under-21s assistant manager - and he has a passion now for non-league.
"It might sound mad for people to read this, but I probably enjoyed my last few years playing non league for Needham more than the last few years of my professional career, albeit I it was blighted with injuries," he said.
"It just gave me the chance to play games I missed out on as a pro. But it also gave me time to be me, enjoy my football. I was very fortunate to come across Needham.
"I adored it and when I left and went on my coaching journey, I always had burning ambition to go back to Needham in some capacity, - it had that much of an effect on me.
"Now, I am very lucky to call it my place of work."
So, can Horlock see non-league benefiting from the fallout of the idea of a European Super League - even though it may now not happen - with fans of professional clubs turning towards non-league?
"That could happen," he said
"I think even to the extent of the pro game at the moment, with the Covid restrictions, people were leaning towards their local sides. I'm hoping football fans will now have a non-league club as their second club, at least."
But the million dollar question is will fans turn on their professional clubs completely?
"Well, many fans' initial reaction was understandably very bitter towards the Super League, once you have been a fan of a club for so many years it's very difficult to walk away," he said.
"But I hope more fans do come to non league, why not? It has so much going for it."