INTERVIEW: Ipswich Town fan Graeme Brooke - the author of ‘Adventures of a Tractor Boy’
- Credit: Archant
From reporting for Radio Orwell from a remote telephone box in Scandinavia to making an impromptu overnight voyage to Aberdeen for a testimonial at Pittodrie.
Graeme Brooke has taken supporting Ipswich Town to the next level on more than one occasion.
The 50-year-old who once had a kickabout with his Town hero Paul Mariner on a Norwegian street, has documented many of the weird and wonderful tales during 40 years supporting the club he loves, in ‘Adventures of a Tractor Boy’.
The Manningtree-based author’s story, which is loosely based on Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch, was only released a fortnight ago and has already reached the dizzy heights of 181st out of the 43 million-plus books that appear on Amazon’s best-sellers list.
That will be music to the ears of Graeme, who is donating all profits from the book to the Colchester Special Baby Care Unit, in thanks for the care given to the author’s youngest daughter Leah when she was born.
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“I started writing the book 10 or 11 years ago as I always wanted to catalogue my adventures as an Ipswich Town fan, prior to getting married, having kids and getting a mortgage,” explained Graeme.
“The book was close to being published in the year Town were last relegated and for whatever reason, after that, it did not go ahead.
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“My youngest daughter was born eight weeks premature in 2005, and I had been thinking about ways to raise money for the Special Baby Care Unit.
“I thought about trying to visit the 92 Football League grounds in four or five days, and a number of other ideas, but then last year I decided to bring the book back up-to-date.”
Graeme’s love affair with the Blues began in 1974 and took him through the halcyon Bobby Robson years, the lead period of the mid-eighties, promotion to the Premier League in the Nineties and the play-off victory at Wembley in the year 2000.
Now, having just watched Town finish ninth in the Championship under Mick McCarthy, Graeme looks back fondly at 40 years of ups and downs.
“My very first match was in 1974 against Leeds, one which still boasts the record attendance for a game held at Portman Road,” remembers Graeme.
“I went along with a friend of mine, who was a Leeds fan, and in those days, you had to get there quite early in the morning to get on the terraces.
“We got in and were leaning against a crash barrier but what we didn’t realise was that the Police would fill the stand up from the front backwards.
“Come kick-off, we were right at the back and could not see anything, just a lot of peoples’ heads, but we could still enjoy the atmosphere.”
The youngster had caught the bug and went on to support the Blues at home and on the road, as well as in other countries.
“I was lucky enough to see Ipswich at Wembley twice, missing the 5-0 Charity Shield defeat in 1978 thankfully, but the best game for me has to be the (4-1) UEFA Cup victory in St Etienne,” he revealed.
“When we got there, we were joined by lots of St Etienne fans who were not giving us a chance and we went one-down after eight or nine minutes.
“We ended up winning the game, against a team that featured the likes of Johnny Rep and Michel Platini and it was a great experience.”
His foreign experiences didn’t stop there either.
“I always remember when former Evening Star journalist Dave Allard and, at that time, Peter Slater of Radio Orwell were trying to beat each other to get their reports published first from Town’s pre-season trip to Scandinavia.
“I was asked to do three reports from there which I thought was great, I thought I was becoming a radio reporter, until I started trying to find a public phone box that made calls to England – that proved quite a challenge.
“Then there was the time myself and my friend Ray Slegg went to watch Town against Viking Stavanger, in Norway.
“We had a kickabout in the street with one of my heroes, Paul Mariner, and were then invited back to the team hotel for a meal with the players.
“Another story comes from when I was around 19 or 20 and in the local pub in Colchester with the darts team.
“The subject of (Aberdeen player) Drew Jarvie’s testimonial came up, Ipswich were playing there the next day, and we decided to go there and then, travelling overnight and getting there for the 3pm kick-off.”
‘Adventures of a Tractor Boy’ – The story of an obsessive fan can be purchased on Amazon for £6.99 or from Greetings and Gifts, 15C High Street, Manningtree, 01206 615262.