When Huddersfield Town fan Tania attended her first game with her son some 10 years ago at the John Smith’s Stadium, the former secondary school teacher would come equipped with her schoolwork to keep her entertained.
Never did she imagine she’d eventually leave the books at home and develop such a passion for the Terriers, almost a decade on.
“My first football game here was with my son when he was much younger,” she explained. It was when the Football Club used to do something called ‘Quid a Kid.’ At the time, I absolutely hated football – I cannot tell you how much I hated football – it was basically cheap childcare.
“My family still laugh at this but I was a secondary teacher at the time and I brought my marking. The team weren’t very good at that point so while my son sat quite happily with his crisps and pop and watched the match, and I did my marking. We did that a couple of times; my partner and I used to do rock, paper, scissors over who would do it.
“The more times we came, the more I really liked the role reversal between me and my son. He would tell me about the game, who the players were and the rules of the game. The more we came, the more I got into it, to the point where I stopped bringing my marking and started paying attention.”
The pair eventually made a more permanent commitment to the West Yorkshire Club, purchasing season tickets to attend fixtures on a regular basis.
In particular, Tania praised the way in which the Terriers facilitate all different types of supporters – whether you’re as vocal as she is or not.
“Each of the different stands caters for the different types of fans, so it doesn’t matter what you identify with as a fan,” she continued. “He wanted to buy a season ticket so he convinced me which was the family orientated stand. The tickets were fairly well priced so I thought, ‘why not?’ We’ve been coming ever since for about six years.
“He really wanted to go into the Cowshed which is the south stand which is the mad end. I thought I would never do that and I’d hate it, but it got to the point where I couldn’t stay sat down and I was jumping up and getting involved and loved the signing and the atmosphere. I said, ‘well give it a shot for one season.’ We haven’t looked back!”
“Now, I love football and I’m a season ticket holder who comes to nearly all of the games, and I even coach football myself. I’ve come full circle.”
Regardless of the result, it’s the feeling of being a part of the something that makes the experience for Tanya.
“I love the theatre, the excitement and the atmosphere,” she said. “Especially with Huddersfield Town, I love that I don’t know what I’m going to get. Every match, everyone comes with some positivity and anticipation. When the team play a really good match, it’s absolutely fantastic.
“It’s the Club and the ethos. From that first match, I did genuinely feel that togetherness of a community Club that represents Huddersfield.”
Despite any nerves that she might have had upon attending her first game all those years ago, any nerves were washed away when she stepped foot in the ground.
“At the time, I was quite stubborn and I’d decided I was going to hate it anyway,” she acknowledged. “As soon as I came near the stadium, it felt welcoming and not at all threatening or overwhelming which was my preconceptions of football because I grew up in the 80s and 90s with the unpleasant side of football. Once I’d got over my own stereotype and judgement, it was really refreshing.”
Tania is also now a part of the Huddersfield Town Women’s + Network, a programme which leads the way in opening up dialogue with supporters, staff, and other stakeholders of all genders and from all backgrounds to champion, enhance, and celebrate female experiences with the Club.
“It’s a network that’s been set up by Zoe [Shackleton] who’s the HR Manager for the Club. She encapsulates what the Club’s about and that’s inclusivity and looking at how different people can be represented.
“It’s an opportunity for fans to get together and share their experience of being female. It was a meeting of female fans but it’s just for anybody who wants to encourage female participation in the game.
“I came along to the first meeting and we’ve had talks and we try and meet quarterly. Last week we had one of the local GPs who gave a talk about menopause and perimenopause which is very topical and affects everybody, not just women. For me, that’s Huddersfield Town Football Club.”
And Tania would encourage any women thinking of going to their first game to give it a try and you never know, just like her, you might just fall in love with it.