Friday 04 October 2013
Ian Wright believes that fans who take the trouble to support their favourite Barclays Premier League club deserve to be rewarded for their loyalty, which is why he is backing the Barclays Buses initiative that is providing free transport for a group of Crystal Palace away fans travelling to Liverpool this Saturday.
"It is time for the fans of Premier League clubs to get something back, and if it should go to anyone it should go to the away fans because they are so loyal"
As part of a new scheme, which aims to reward groups of dedicated fans from all Barclays Premier League clubs for following their clubs across the country, Barclays are laying on coaches to take 80 Palace fans on the 452-mile round trip to Merseyside.
The fans will be looked after on the trip with food and drink, videos and entertainment and will also have a surprise guest on board, as Barclays say 'thank you' to the away fans that travel the length and breadth of the country.
Wright, the former England international who started his career at the south London club, told premierleague.com that he was delighted to get involved with an initiative that gives something back to the "fans who really care".
"It's about thanking the fans; giving the fans the opportunity to get the bus to an away match provided by Barclays," he said. "It is time for the fans of Premier League clubs to get something back, and if it should go to anyone it should go to the away fans because they are so loyal.
"No matter what happens, they’re the ones who are really suffering on those long trips back home when their team has played badly and they’re left completely gutted; a bad result spoils their weekend, it can ruin their whole week. But although it hurts them, they are the ones who will come back and do it again next week: that loyalty deserves some form of repayment."
Wright enjoyed a 15-year career in English football, helping the Eagles earn promotion to the top-flight in 1989 and sealing a move to Arsenal in 1992. He went on to become the then Gunners’ record goalscorer with 101 Barclays Premier League goals and part of the side who won the Barclays Premier League title in his final season before moving on to West Ham United.
As well as his unerring eye for goal, the now 49-year-old BBC radio presenter was also known in his playing days for wearing his heart on his sleeve – a quality which frequently resulted in his falling foul of match officials but which endeared him to fans of the clubs for whom he played. And Wright remembers fondly the rapport he built with supporters on those tricky road trips.
"When you're playing away from home and you're getting stick off the home fans and every decision is going against you; and you get booked; and the fans start slaughtering you; and you're getting jeered every time you misplace a pass, the away fans recognise that and they support you. They start singing your name, they keep you going. It's they who make you play better.
"The away fans are the ones who really care – theirs is a commitment that in this day and age is unbelievable"
"So when you score a goal the first thing you do is go over to them and celebrate with them – it's a magical bond. Because they can understand what's been happening. When I go on Twitter, deep down I'm catering for the away fans because they're the ones who really care. It's the away fans who know, and they feel it because they go home and away every week. Theirs is a commitment that in this day and age is unbelievable."
Wright hopes that the commitment of Palace's away supporters will be rewarded not just by Barclays Buses but also by their first victory of the Barclays Premier League, but recognises that Ian Holloway's charges have their work cut out in nullifying Liverpool's attacking threat.
"You're talking to someone who went to Liverpool when they had all the bells and whistles – top players and we lost 9-0," he explained, reflecting on his first ever trip to Anfield as a player. "I'm sure that's not going to happen to Palace on Saturday, fingers crossed, but at the same time they’ve got two players in Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez who could cause a lot of problems."
You can keep up to date with Liverpool v Crystal Palace, and all the weekend action on premierleague.com. With our Matchday Live service you can watch the manager press conferences, catch all the latest team news and check out the head-to-head statistics ahead of the weekend's action.
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Ian Wright was speaking at the launch of the Barclays Buses, a new free-travel initiative from Barclays to say 'thank you' to groups of away fans that travel the length and breadth of the country supporting their team. Join the conversation on social media using #YouAreFootball.