Having a conversation with Witham Town supporter James Beardwell demonstrates conclusively that he would be a perfect employee for National Rail Enquiries. He can direct you by train to almost every ground in the Bostik Football League; where to change, how long the journey will take, where the stadium is in relation to the station- even which local features you are likely to notice on your journey. He's a walking, talking, Bostik football tour guide of the highest order.
James first started watching football at Spa Road twelve years ago, and quickly became hooked. His first season coincided with end of Isthmian Division Two, and saw his side finish second behind Ware to earn promotion to the newly formed Division One North. This may have given him a false idea of the glory that awaits a Non-League football fan, but before long he was a season ticket holder and following Town home and away. Wherever Witham might be playing, it is guaranteed that James will be there- on occasions on his own but always providing vocal support and always festooning the away end with flags. His favourite trip last season, he explained, was a visit to the Norfolk Broads to watch Town take on the Yachtsmen of Wroxham, and his best ever day as a supporter of the club was the 3-0 play off final victory over Harlow Town in May 2014. Sadly, he seems to have only a sketchy recollection of the seminal Witham Town career of one Olly Murs, and we would like to point out that there is no truth in the story that when his side win his heart skip-skips a beat. He's certainly no troublemaker, either…
Beating stiff competition to win last season’s Isthmian Supporter of the Year prize- awarded at the League AGM at Wembley last month- James is already planning his pre- season journeys and particularly looking forward to the friendly at Shoreham on 29th July (change at Liverpool Street for the Circle Line and then take a Southern Train from London Victoria). His hope is that his side can improve on their thirteenth place from the last campaign and challenge for a play-off position this time around. Certainly if they can produce the level of commitment on the pitch that James delivers on the terraces you'd have to think them in with a chance!
In hindsight, James would stick out like a sore thumb at National Rail. He's never been late for an away match, doesn't make excuses when his side perform poorly, and provides accurate answers to all questions asked.
He'd put them to shame.
Do you know a Bostik League superfan? Contact email@example.com and perhaps we’ll feature them on this page in the near future. And- just perhaps- they may end up as 2017-18’s Supporter of the Year.
Image from James Beardwell personal collection