Footie fan sees every Derby home game for 88 years – except those missed in WW2
A Second World War hero aged 102 who has followed his team for 88 years is thought to be Britain’s oldest football supporter.
Derby County fanatic Derek Eley was 14 when he went to his first game at the club’s Baseball Ground in 1931.
He has notched up more than 1,700 home matches since, only missing games when he was fighting in the war.
Dad-of-two Derek has seen the Rams twice crowned league champions and even lift the FA Cup at Wembley in 1946.
He has stopped going to away games but still has a season ticket at Pride Park, the club’s home since 1997.
Derek has travelled 130,000 miles to and from his home in Chapel-en-le-Frith, Derbys, to see games.
He passed on his football obsession to his son Robert and the pair saw England win the World Cup at Wembley in 1966.
Derek says he fell in love with the atmosphere at his first match.
He added: “It has been a huge part of my life. I’ve rarely missed a home game in all the years I’ve been going.
“I would go to away games when I was younger. I followed them everywhere.
“We have a great set of fans and I love the atmosphere. I love being there.”
His long run of home games ended in 1939 when he was called up to serve with the Sherwood Foresters in Italy.
While overseas he wrote to the chairman of the FA asking for tickets to the FA Cup final when the competition resumed.
He was amazed to receive tickets and luckily Derby reached the final, where they beat Charlton 4-1.
“I’ve had so many great memories,” added Derek. “I’ve seen them win the league and the Charity Shield as well. I also saw them beat Manchester United 4-1 against George Best.
“Seeing England win the World Cup was one of my best memories.”
He says Sammy Crooks was the best player he has ever seen, while Costa Rican star Paulo Wanchope is his pick of the modern era.
Derek’s wife Mary, a former nurse, died 16 years ago after a battle with Alzheimer’s.
He now goes to games with pal Caron Morris.
Derek said: “I can see the left hand side of the pitch, but when it gets past the halfway line, I have to ask Caron.
“I have been lucky that I’ve had a long life, had a good job and I survived the war.
"One of the greatest things in life is being friendly with people and if you do that, people will be good to you.”
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