Football fan travelled 4,000 miles for non-league football match in Yorkshire - then it was abandoned

An American football fan who fell in love with a non-league team from Yorkshire on Football Manager travelled more than 4,000 miles to watch the team play in the flesh - only to find the game was abandoned due to a waterlogged pitch.

Ian Webb, 28, was "crushed" after flying from his home in Chattanooga, Tennessee, to see non-league side Wakefield AFC before bad weather ended his 'dream'. He became 'obsessed' with the Northern Counties East Football League Division One team two years ago - after playing as them on the Football Manager video game.

He had spent 18 months saving up £4,500 for a trip with his wife Megan Webb, 27, so he could watch the side play a game at their stadium in West Yorkshire.

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But he was left "emotional" when the first fixture he hoped to see was postponed - and another back-up game he'd lined up was called off due to torrential rain.

Ian Webb at the Be Well Support Stadium, WakefieldIan Webb at the Be Well Support Stadium, Wakefield
Ian Webb at the Be Well Support Stadium, Wakefield

The recruitment manager said: "I was certainly crushed. It was one of those things where you get a pit in your stomach. It had been raining most of the day, and it was coming down really hard. I think the disappointment was spread out of a few hours. As it kept raining more and more, I could tell that the game was definitely going to be postponed.

"It was really hard when I told my wife and got back to the hotel, saying 'We are not going to be going to the game'. I felt a little bit emotional in that moment, but we had to move past it."

Ian's love of Wakefield AFC started when he began playing as them on Football Manager on his computer - a simulation game where you take charge of a club. The side was only established in 2019 and was saved from ruin a few years later following investment from US wealth management firm VO2 Capital.

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And Ian said the obscure, semi-professional outfit, who play at level ten of the English football pyramid, had piqued his interest when he found them online.

Ian Webb (centre, tall), with wife Megan Webb (jean jacket) at the pub after their game was postponed on October 24 in Wakefield.Ian Webb (centre, tall), with wife Megan Webb (jean jacket) at the pub after their game was postponed on October 24 in Wakefield.
Ian Webb (centre, tall), with wife Megan Webb (jean jacket) at the pub after their game was postponed on October 24 in Wakefield.

He said: "I thought what's the biggest city in England without a professional team? I thought maybe there's a little club that can maybe fill some big boots. I Googled it and Wakefield came up. I saw there was a team there, which was semi-professional and founded in 2019, and I looked into that."

Ian later became engrossed in the club's fan culture and was invited to appear on a local podcast dedicated to them, 'All Wakey Aren't We', to talk about his support.

He added: "I fell in love with it… That's how Wakefield became my favourite club."

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His wife then agreed to fly out with him to the UK in October this year, where they'd made plans to see a game while visiting York, Bath and London. He was initially forced to change his itinerary when a fixture he meant to see at their Be Well Support Stadium on October 21 was postponed due to scheduling issues.

But disaster struck again when another game he wanted to watch was cancelled following bad weather on October 24.

Ian said: "There was a Saturday game that the trip was planned around. We had built our trip around being in Wakefield for that weekend to see that home game. And then we heard that it was postponed because the other team made it to the next round of the cup. So they had to call it off.

"Then I moved my trip to Wakefield to the Tuesday for the away game, and then that one was waterlogged."

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Despite his setbacks, Ian still loved seeing the club's premises during a tour with staff and said there was something magical about grassroots football in England.

He said: "In America, big NFL stadiums with 60-80,000 seats are a dime-a-dozen. There's something exciting about being in a huge, packed stadium and the energy that brings.

"But it's an incredible corporate league, and you're a customer, and it's about 'how many butts can we fit into these seats?' and 'how much can we charge?' Ultimately, what has always been attractive about Wakefield is it's more of a local, authentic experience."

Ian added that he was hoping to come back to the UK to see a crunch Wakefield AFC fixture.

He said: "The plan is to come back in a couple of years. The dream is to see Wakefield play in a pivotal game while they're challenging for promotion. That would be incredibly exciting."

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