One fan's record-breaking return journey through English football to fight prostate cancer
25 years ago, Ed Wood entered the Guinness Book of World Records as the 'Most Peripatetic Football Fan', having watched a home game at all 93 of England's top football clubs in the fastest time. 25 years on he’s broken the record by doing it all over again in less than 237 days (189 to be precise), while raising vital funds for Prostate Cancer UK.
In August 2016 is where it all began again for 50-year-old Ed Wood from Otley, West Yorkshire, as he committed to visiting all 93 grounds in the country (92 + Berwick Rangers) in the shortest amount of time whilst also raising money for Prostate Cancer UK.
Ed’s four-month sabbatical, which finishes on Saturday 18 February at Spotland, the home of Rochdale AFC, has become all about planning match fixtures, looking out for televised games, tracking EFL Cup fixtures all in a bid to become the fastest man to watch all 93 of England's top football teams (92 Premier and Football League clubs + Berwick Rangers) playing a home match, currently set at 237 days. And amazingly, it isn't the first time he's done it either.
Ed’s original record set in 1992 was beaten just three years after it had been etched into the record books. But after recently hitting the age of 50, the bank worker decided the time had come to reclaim his title.
Reclaiming a boyhood dream
“I still remember waking up on Christmas Day in 1973 and unwrapping that Guinness Book of World Records from Santa,” reminisces Ed about the inspiration for his record attempts. “When I read about the record set by my hero, Mike Jones, I became fascinated with the prospect of visiting all the (then) Football League grounds in the country in the shortest time.”
Eighteen years later, Ed managed to fulfill that dream. “It was an incredible experience and one I somehow managed to do whilst holding down a fulltime job!” he says. “But a lot’s changed since 1991. We’ve got the internet, mobile phones and sat navs, which all make it a lot easier for me now.”
Much to the dismay of this girlfriend, Ed decided he’d like to break the record again after talking to his mates down the pub. They all agreed he’d have to do something a little different this time. So a bit of banter and several pints later, he was making a deal with his friends that this time he’d be raising money for charity and taking on a variety of challenges along the way.
“The main reason I chose to support Prostate Cancer UK is their partnership with the English Football League over the last few years,” he says. “You see the managers wearing the pin-badges week in and week out and start to think about all the men who are affected by the disease.”
Inspirational club fans with prostate cancer
He's also been meeting some of the men the charity's helped as he goes around the country, including Paul Thompson at Rotherham United and Errol McKellar at Leyton Orient. “I felt very humbled speaking to them,” says Ed. “I’ve luckily not had a lot of exposure to people living with or who’ve survived cancer, but meeting them has really put things into perspective. They’ve obviously been on a journey and thankfully seem to be in a good place now.
“My meeting with John Heyworth at Burnley FC was particularly insightful. He shared his experience with me: the symptoms of going to the toilet frequently in the night and being referred to three GPs before he was diagnosed. I’ve learnt that testing for prostate cancer is still a huge issue and if that’s something the money I’m raising can help improve, then I’ll be very happy.”
To help with his fundraising, Ed has been completing a number of challenges throughout the record attempt: from cycling to the Burnley v Watford match in wet and windy weather to being the first person in a ground and the last to leave.
“I like being there early to see the stadium fill up from nothing and then dissipate quite quickly after, witnessing the full cycle of a match day,” he says. “And having received fantastic support from many of the clubs so far, I really believe the football family look out for each other.
“It’s there to see in the badges worn in solidarity by managers and fans, the support I’ve had in matchday programmes and on club websites, and the donations I’ve received from family, friends and complete strangers.”
Sponsor Ed’s record breaking and help raise vital funds for Prostate Cancer UK.