In a league of his own

FOOTBALL fans will always go to the ends of the earth to support their team – but not many travel thousands of miles to watch everyone else's.

• Nigel Watt celebrates achieving his aim of visiting every league ground in the UK Picture: Ian Georgeson

That is exactly what Nigel Watt has done after achieving a 20-year goal of visiting every league stadium in the UK.

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The 59-year-old finished his tour of 134 grounds in Norwich on Easter Monday. Wife Joanne, 62, and sons Alastair, 25, and Douglas, 24, all joined him at the clash between Norwich City and Stockport County.

There was another guest, too – the club's most famous fan, TV cook Delia Smith, came out to congratulate him on his feat.

"I had planned to finish in Norwich for nearly a year because I knew they would treat me well," said Mr Watt, who lives in Gullane, East Lothian. "Everyone's talking about it. Delia was very interested and she said I should write a book. There won't be many people who have done this, so maybe I should."

Former lawyer Mr Watt, now a professional golf referee, began watching his team, Aberdeen, when he was just eight before moving to the Lothians in 1972.

But his tour really began in 1991 when he had his own young sons. They decided to visit every Scottish ground, but it took only two or three years and soon Mr Watt was looking for a new thrill.

"I don't know why but the idea just took me," he said. "I bought a family rail card and brought my sons along.

"We would start at 6am. I worked out you could get to half the stadiums and back in a day, and for the rest we would stay the night."

His wife often came, too, and always supported him, but when his sons left home, their father was still 40 grounds from his target. He began travelling alone to finish his challenge and in the last two years has covered more than 30 grounds.

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In one 1,000-mile road trip, he ticked off Exeter, Plymouth and Yeovil in just three days. "I was very lucky they were all playing the same weekend," he said. "It was lonely going in the car, but I was glad to get them all done."

It was still not an easy task. Every time a club changed its ground he would visit again.

"I was quite fussy about it," he said. "There were obvious ones like Arsenal moving to the Emirates Stadium, but I also went to see Rotherham when they were in a temporary venue in Sheffield. I didn't want to miss any out."

Mr Watt would not reveal how much he had spent on his travels, but his most expensive ticket was for 50 at Stamford Bridge.

His favourite match was a 7-3 away victory for Aberdeen over Greenock Morton which saw his side net four goals in extra time.

But his favourite pies, he admitted, were not the ones at his home ground.

"I've found the catering far better in England, unfortunately," he said. "The best of all was Norwich. They're famous for it – they're supposed to be the third best in Europe."

The football fan may have finished his 20-year tour, but there is no time to relax. This weekend he is watching both Manchester United and Everton at home, not to mention his other challenges.

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He plans to visit every county cricket ground – all 18 of them – and climb all 283 of Scotland's Munros. He still has 107 left to do.

His understanding wife is philosophical.

She said: "I had to think 'if you can't beat them, join them' so we had some lovely family weekends. I do like a good game of football, but I'm relieved his challenge is over now!

"I'm happy to climb the Munros with him, but I'm not going to the cricket grounds – I can't stand cricket. He can do those on his own."