Following Eastleigh around the country is just normal life for most of us. But what’s it like for fans that live in a foreign country? We spoke to Mark Pearce, who lives in the US, and asked him what it’s like supporting the Spitfires so far away from the Silverlake.
1) How long have you lived abroad? What were your reasons for leaving the UK? Or, have you been a fan abroad since birth?
I first moved to the States in 1992 for work ( I actually won my green card in the lottery the US government hold every year), then moved back to England in 1999. Then moved back to the US in 2006 as my American wife wanted to be closer to her family. It was while I was back from 1999 – 2006 that I started following the Spitfires, firstly as a fan, then as Matchday Programme Editor & then Committee Member.
2) What do other people think when you tell them you’re an Eastleigh fan abroad? Have they ever heard of the Spitfires?
The first response is “who?”, then, “but who do you really support?” or “But what Premier League team do you support?”. I have come across a few people who have heard of us, mainly thanks to our FA Cup exploits over the past few seasons. Thanks to the internet & the increase in TV coverage over here the game is growing & that is starting to filter from the Premier League down the pyramid. If I’m wearing one of my (many) Eastleigh shirts I often get stopped & asked what team it is.
3) How do you follow the games?
Mostly on the internet listening to Radio Solent coverage (I am listening to our game v Gateshead as I’m typing this). Saturday games kick off at 8AM so my game day routine is sitting on the sofa with a coffee & bagel, listening to the radio whilst watching a Premier League game on TV, with the volume muted! Midweek games are harder as they are during the work day but I usually manage to take an extended lunch break or go out on a “client visit” to listen in. If ever we are on TV I have found a few online streams so I have managed to watch us every time we’ve been on TV.
4) What has been the most memorable or stressful game you have watched or followed abroad?
The most memorable, and proudest day was the 18th April 2014 – the day we won the Conference South at home to Basingstoke. It was Good Friday but that is a regular work day here. I usually have to wear a Suit & Tie but my boss was off that day so I remember I wore my Spitfire shirt to work and listened to the game in my office. At the end of the game I cheered so loud I think the entire hotel heard me. I just remember sitting there singing to myself with tears of pride running down my face! (sad I know, but that’s what football does to you!
5) Do you still feel a connection to the club and your fellow Eastleigh fans?
Very much so. With the Live radio commentaries, Fans Forum, Twitter and all the Facebook pages it is easy to stay connected. These sources mean you can have real time conversations and be as involved as if I was still back there. I know several of the fans like the Blakes, Mark Broomfiled, Ian Richardson, Mike Wimbridge, etc from when I lived back there, while others I have got to know just through the internet. The fact the club itself, and especially Stewart Donald are so involved through these channels certainly helps. And I am pretty active on these forums as well, so I definitely feel that connection.
You can follow Mark on Twitter @USSpitfire. We’d like to thank Mark for taking the time to talk to us, and giving us an insight into supporting the Spitfires from another country!