As a back-bench MP I was never jealous of those who were promoted over me to the Front Benches. What really made me green with envy were those who had League Football Teams in their Constituencies. Especially, Bill Etherington who has the team I support in his patch - Sunderland.
Then just prior to my final spell as an MP arising from the 2001 General Election, the oldest team in the world suddenly moved into a ground just 15 Minutes walk from my home - which is in the Constituency I represented.
Admittedly, they are a Non-League team - Sheffield FC. But there are some reasons why they are rather special.
A First XI
1. They are the oldest team in the world .Founded in 1857, they have been in continious existence since then. It is only 8 months until their 150th Anniversary.
2. The oldest contest in the world is between Sheffield FC and Hallam FC. They are currently in the same local League. They first played on the ground which Hallam still play at on Boxing Day 1860. I was able to watch the 146h Anniverary of that fixture when the two teams met at Hallam on Boxing Day 2006.
3. Both the Sheffield Chamber of Commerce and Sheffield FC celebrate their 150th Anniversaries this year. They have linked for the purpose and recently kicked off the joint celebrations at the Olive Grove Bus Depot in Sheffield. In 1857, the site included a greenhouse where the first ever meeting of Sheffield FC took place. The Sheffield area has been a hothouse for football ever since.
4. Sheffield FC are ten points clear at the top of the Northern Counties League. Retford Town are in second place, but have 4 games in hand. They were to have played each other tonight in a Cup game, but it has been postponed due to a waterlogged pitch.
5. Sheffield FC don't just own the ground near me, but they own the neighbouring pub which serves a fine range of specialist beers.
6. They also run a major charity which has so far delivered 2,000 pairs of football boots to Africa. Locally, 27 schools and colleges, 8 sports organisations and 28 businesses are involved - as is Tony Adams (ex-Arsenal and England).
7. Richard Caborn MP, the Sports Minister and a former adult student of mine is also on board in the above campaign and in other Club activities. They have also drawn Chelsea, the FIFA President, the Premier League Chairman, Micheal Vaughan the England Cricket Captain and Rock Star Def Leppard into membership. Another member is the former England Manager, Sven Goran Eriksson. Just before the World Cup I met Sven in a bar in the Commons. He knew everything about developments at Sheffield FC, but nothing at all about Neill Quinn's moves to organise a take-over at Sunderland and send it on its way to recovery !
8. The Club has a full community involvement and runs teams for women, under 19s, junior girls and junior boys. Young team mascots appear at each home game and receive a team strip. They run a team for disabled people, which gave them their link with Chelsea who do the same. It also has a "Football in the Community" Scheme which is fully involved in programmes such as "Kick Racism Out Of Football".
9. The Club has a partnership arrangement with Real Madrid and involves itself fully at a range of International Football Conferences linking up with people such as Eric Cantana and Sir Bobby Robson. The formal opening of its activities on my local ground involved a friendly against a Manchester United team.
10. Whilst it has a fine home ground with ground improvements initially aided by the Football Foundation, some of its bigger events are occasionally moved to larger facilities at Don Valley and Bramall Lane, the nearby home of Sheffield United. The Club being closely involved with the setting up of United in 1889. They also have a good relationship with Sheffield Wednesday. There are inevitable pre-season friendlies with both the big Sheffield Clubs. Sheffield FC also won the Sheffield and Hallamshire Senior Cup on the Wednesday's Hillsborough home ground at the end of last season.
11. None of the above footballing, anniversary, social and community activities would be achieved without a great deal of sensible hard work from those involved in the day to day operations of the Club, headed up by Dave McCarthy as Manager and Richard Tims as Chairman.
No wonder that I have been a proud member of the Club since its local arrival. So Club plaques, badges, scarves and shirts decorate my room - alongside the eqivalents for Sunderland.
On Saturday, Sheffield FC defeated Pickering Town 1-0 at home with the best move of the match. A match report can be found here.