IAN MADE 1,000 MILE ROUND TRIP TO COMPLETE HIS HIGHLAND HIT LIST AT COVE
THERE was a far travelled fan in the crowd at Balmoral Stadium for the recent Cove Rangers v Formartine United clash in the Breedon Highland League.
Retired rail worker Ian Thompson had come up from Downham Market, Norfolk, to take in the game - and complete the full set of visits to stadiums in the Highland League.
It meant a round trip of close to 1,000 miles for Ian, whose passion for football outside the top divisions has also seen him visit close to 200 non-league grounds south of the border.
He had planned to watch Cove at their previous home, Allan Park, but couldn't fit that in before the stadium was shut down three years ago.
Ian had waited patiently for Balmoral to be built so that he could tick the last box on his Highland hit list.
He actually travelled up to Scotland on the Wednesday before the Formartine game.
Ian pitched a tent at a campsite near Huntly and even took in Cove's Evening Express Aberdeenshire Cup win over Deveronvale, at Banff, that night.
Ian made the short trip back down to Aberdeen on the Saturday morning in time to see Cove beat the men from Pitmedden 2-0, before starting the long trek back to his home in England.
"I have to say it was worth the wait," said Ian.
"Balmoral Stadium is certainly very impressive, among the best I've seen in the lower leagues either side of the border."
Ian's passion for Highland League football was fuelled when he travelled up to Banff for a family holiday in the early 1970s and his father took him to see Deveronvale play Huntly.
"I just loved the whole experience and have been hooked ever since," he said.
"I'm a Huddersfield fan but have never actually seen them play in the English Premier League.
"That's because I feel you get more value for your money watching the teams in the lower divisions.
"Every match is honest and competitive and I've also enjoyed great banter with fans at every ground that I've visited."