David Stoker once went to four games in a day - so how is he coping with the shutdown?

#davesfootballtravels – and his pie reviews – are a staple of Scottish football Twitter

Lochmaben v Wigtown & Bladnoch in the South of Scotland League was on David Stoker's itinerary.

Almost three weeks in, the thought suddenly struck: has anyone looked in to see if 
David Stoker is all right? After all, his football adventures – #davesfootballtravels – have been a staple of Scottish football Twitter for several years now.

Arbroath FC’s official Twitter feed recently posted a Scottish ground checklist for a bit of fun to pass the time during the current shutdown. Those interested were invited to tick off the number of stadiums they had visited, or perhaps even played at. Stoker, a former Livingston director, was able to reply that he had been to 30 out of 42 – this season. Of course, over the years he had been to them all many times over.

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“In last five years I have taken a step back from watching 
Livingston for numerous reasons – some of them political,” he explains. “That’s allowed me to pick and choose what I want to watch.

The Motherwell v St Mirren Scottish Cup tie was one of the best games David Stoker has seen this season. Picture: Ross Parker / SNS

“Every Saturday afternoon – or Tuesday, or Wednesday or whatever day I want to go – I have a look and see what’s on and crack on and do it.

“It is quite liberating. I have watched Meadowbank or Livingston play the likes of Dundee, Morton, Dunfermline and Falkirk dozens of times home and away. I like the fact that on a Saturday morning I can just go online and see what is on, see what the weather’s like, and if I want to go somewhere nearby I can do that, if I want a bit of a trip I can do that.”

He often acts on a whim. The farthest he has travelled from his Bathgate home is Rochdale, for a Checkatrade Trophy clash with Blackburn Rovers. He got home at 2am.

That was then, this is now. His Twitter bio has been subtly altered to reflect the new reality. “I (used to) watch a lot of football,” it reads. And when he says a lot, he means a lot. Most days of the week he seems to manage to find a game. He took in 175 games last season. He was at 128 games for the current campaign before we were interrupted – among the most enjoyable being the 4-4 Scottish Cup replay between Motherwell and St Mirren at Fir Park, which was won by the visitors on penalties.

David takes in a game with five-year-old son, Evan

It’s not so much the stamina that is impressive, more his persuasive powers. He is succinct about what Karen, his wife, thinks about it all. “She tolerates it,” the 42-year-old says.

Mercifully, Stoker is currently suffering only from football withdrawal symptoms. He has not come down with anything more serious, as The Scotsman discovered after doing what’s suggested in the opening paragraph and checking on him.

The last senior football match in Scotland took place three weeks ago last night, when Rangers somehow managed to host Bayer Leverkusen. It already feels like a lifetime ago. The SFA and SPFL called a halt to football at all levels the following day – Friday the 13th.

Horror of horrors. It meant Stoker had to be imaginative.

He headed down to the north east of England that weekend to take in a couple of games which had escaped the clutches of the authorities. First up was a Northern Alliance Second Division game between Newcastle Blue Star reserves and Haltwhistle Jubilee. Then he took in the positively glamorous Northern Alliance Premier Division clash between Percy Main Amateurs and Winlaton Vulcans, seven promotions from the Premier League.

“I have been to as many as four games in a day,” he says. “For me it is a bit much. I like to go to a couple. Three you start to lose your concentration and by four, you are a bit punch drunk.”

He is aware it all sounds a bit groundhopperish. While he is not judgemental, he is not one of them.

“They tend to go to a ground once and never go back,” he says. “That’s not what I am. I am kind of more about the attraction of the game. Sometimes it lets you down, sometimes it doesn’t. I like to go and watch Hibs v Hearts and I have seen two Dundee derbies this season. The one structure I have is that I go to one or more game in every round of the Scottish Cup.”

He has other rules, too. “There is a level at which I will not go any lower,” he says. “Generally, it is the venue as much as anything – I won’t just go to a sports centre and stand on the side of the pitch and watch two amateur teams. That does not really float my boat.”

Another of his own stipulations is having to pay to get in. He also needs to be able to get a pie, reviews of which are so popular he has continued to post them even without the football. “It’s part of my coping mechanism,” he says.

“About a month ago, I went to Fraserburgh and gave the pie a nine-star review,” he recalls. “Loads of people wanted to read that particular tweet. Somebody high profile must have retweeted it. It had about 100,000 impressions, which is a lot for a pie tweet.

“It’s part of the football ritual isn’t it? It’s turned into a thing I just do. If you are asking me the best pie in Scottish football, it’s Broxburn Athletic. It’s not Kilmarnock, contrary to popular belief.”

He concedes that some of his pals think he is genuinely round the bend. But then 
he calls them crazy for forking out money for sports 
channels.

“One thing I will say is I very rarely watch games on TV,” he says. “So Super Sunday and stuff like that does not do it for me at all. If you watch two or three games on a Sunday and a Champions League match during the week you probably see as much as I do. I just go out and do it.”

Or at least he did and will do so again – eventually.

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