As a part of #WeeksOfAction we want to hear about fans matchday experience and in this article, we are lucky to hear from Level Playing Field’s ambassador Kieran Reynolds.
Kieran talks about the positive impact that football has had on his life and about his matchday experience of seeing Alan Shearer playing live at Newcastle to supporting his local National League team Sutton United.
Football Asperger’s and me
Football has played a part in my life for as long as I can remember. I am a Newcastle United and Sutton United supporter. I regularly travel from London to St James’ Park to attend matches and have a season ticket at Sutton United’s Gander Green Lane.
Growing up with Asperger’s Syndrome and learning difficulties, football played a massive part in my social development. I have not always found social interaction easy but my interest in football is something that has allowed me to make so many friends and help me build up those skills. That sense of belonging is something I really value. Those who know me will know that I will happily talk about football for hours if I have an opportunity.
There are few experiences more enjoyable than watching your team live. My Newcastle matchday will start at 6am in the morning as I get ready to travel up to Kings Cross to get the 9am train to Newcastle and I will not usually get home until close to midnight! One of the best things about St James’ Park is that the ground is right in the city centre with plenty to do before and after the match. This is a city that lives and breathes football and its mood is largely dependent on the success or otherwise of its football team. I usually sit in the Gallowgate End and I still get a buzz when I hear Local Hero when the teams enter the pitch. I was lucky enough to grow up during the Alan Shearer era and seeing the great man play live is something I will never forget.
More recently, I have become a season ticket holder at Sutton United who play in the National League. Sutton are currently enjoying the most successful period in their history under the management of Paul Doswell and are currently competing for promotion into the Football League. I really enjoy non-league football and I recommend that you visit your local club. I did and I never looked back. There is a wonderful ethos at the club and their success has been great for the local area. Long may it continue!
There are several people with Autism who love football but have not attended a match. This can be due to a variety of reasons such as the lack of understanding from some staff, the noise in the stadium and the difficulty of using public transport.
Not everyone with Autism is the same but I find one thing that has really helped me is to plan my day in advance. This is particularly helpful when attending away games when I am less familiar to the area. It is worth getting in touch with a club in advance to ask how they can support you. You may find it helps to visit the stadium on a non-match day so you can familiarise yourself with the area. The Access and Development team at Level Playing Field can also offer advice and assistance and contact a club for you if you prefer. Your club may also have a Disabled Supporters Association who will also be able to offer support.
If you are disabled football fan who has not attended a match, I certainly recommend you give it a go. Quite simply, football opened my world and I hope it can do the same for you.
If you would like more information or support, please do contact Level Playing Field by clicking here