Yeovil Town Superfan Pat CustardWritten by Nick Churchill
She began volunteering at the club’s old Huish ground in the mid-1980s sweeping up the terraces after matches and has been helping out wherever she can ever since. Much as she would prefer to have remained an unsung hero, travelling Yeovil fans have been known to chant ‘There’s only one Pat Custard’ at away matches and was thrilled to win this season’s superfan award on 17 April, the day after her beloved Yeovil managed to beat relegation from the Football League.
‘I really don’t like being in the spotlight,’ says reluctant star Pat, ‘but with my name and the award and what have you, there’s no hiding place. I do it for the club, because it improves the image of Yeovil.’And that desire for the wider world to see Yeovil Town in particular, but the town in general, in a better light has been driving Pat’s various activities around the club for years.
‘In the summer close season I always like to have a project and one year I decided to do something about the loos because they weren’t very welcoming. So I got a load of green and white paint and painted them up and arranged some artificial flowers in the ladies and the gents – in the away end as well.'The story was reported as far afield as Canada and although Football League health and safety rules were cited as the flowers were removed from the away end when Yeovil gained promotion to football’s second tier, the Championship, in 2013…
‘They’re back there in place now,’ says Pat defiantly.‘I also started putting up posters welcoming away fans and wishing them a safe journey home. I don’t know if that was an original idea or not, but I’ve since noticed Doncaster and a few other clubs are doing the same thing. We’re all football fans at the end of the day and I know from travelling to away games myself that little things like that can make a real difference.’Although this season she has been less involved on match days than before, Pat’s passion is undimmed – and it’s a real family affair.
‘I’m actually a Shaftesbury girl but I got a job in Yeovil, met my husband Tony and then set up a business about ten yards from the front door at the old Huish ground. He’s Yeovil through and though so we’ve been buying season tickets ever since and for the last 15 years or so, since the business has been more secure, we’ve been full-on fans, seeing every game, home and away. In fact, we bought season tickets for our grandchildren Ruby and Toby when they were born to make sure they would have seats next to ours. They’re not old enough to have been to a match yet, we just wanted to do our bit to boost the club’s income and the club knows they can always contact me if they need to sell a couple of extra seats for a big game.’
Pat’s oldest grandson, Dion, works in the tea bar as Pat did before him. ‘He needs to earn a few pounds and he doesn’t mind too much missing the games. If it’s busy, his mum our oldest daughter Treena comes in to help as well. When I worked there the club’s media team used to give me a DVD of the match so I could catch up afterwards – everyone at the club looks after me very well so I’ve always known my efforts are appreciated.’
For all the glamour of football’s elite, for the millions that slosh around at the top of the sport, its grass roots have always been tended by a more virtuous Corinthian spirit that survives at clubs like Yeovil Town through the efforts of Pat and others like her. As thrilled as she is when the team does well on the pitch, Pat is probably more proud of her club in tougher times.‘I don’t like it when people shout negative things at young players – how would they feel if it was their grandson out there? When a player makes a mistake that’s when they need your support more.’
And from the players, coaches and managers, to the directors, part-timers and volunteers, everyone at Yeovil Town knows they can count on Pat Custard’s support. We’ve had a hard couple of seasons since we were in the Championship and you don’t get the same numbers of people turning up to games, but you get back to what I call the real fans, the people that come regardless of what league you’re in or whether you’re playing Manchester United or Northwich Victoria. I can’t imagine what it would be like expecting to win every week – pretty boring I should think.
‘What I love most of all is making a difference. I remember we were away at Halifax and two-nil down, but we were singing our hearts out, really going for it. You could see it was inspiring the players and they gradually came out of their shells as we pushed and pushed them. Two goals to bring us level, then Kevin Gall scored a 90th-minute winner to complete his hat-trick, sheer joy and that long journey home just flew by. Of course now, to hear people talk about it you’d think there were hundreds of us there, but it was only about twelve I think. 'Absolutely magic it was.’
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