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M4 breakdown ends football reporter’s 28-year run

A non-league football reporter’s run of covering every game for his local team for nearly 29 years came to a frustrating end at the weekend after his van broke down.

David Tavener, a correspondent for the St Albans and Harpenden Review, had covered 1,633 competitive games in a row for St Albans City but his hopes of continuing the incredible run were scuppered after breaking down on route to an away match with Bideford AFC in Devon on Saturday.

The fifty-four-year-old, who has been to all of The Saints’ matches since May 1985, had set off later than usual as there were doubts over the Southern League Premier Divison fixture taking place because of the bad weather.

But when his vehicle developed a fault on the M4, a delay in the recovery service arriving meant he did not have enough time to complete the remaining 170 miles to arrive in time for kick-off.

David, pictured left, with club legend Norman Griffiths, middle, and former chairman Ian Ridley

“I would have liked to have got to 30 years but it can’t be helped. I’ve been fortunate in that colds and illnesses have not been severe enough to stop me attending matches down the years,” he said.

“People know not to invite me to weddings.

“I usually leave early for games to cover for any mishaps along the way, but last Saturday’s game at Bideford was subject to a mid morning inspection.

“If I had left early then I would have been able to get a taxi to take me there in time.”

To make matters worse, David, who is the club’s historian and also works as a courier, had declined an offer to leave on the Friday and stay overnight in a hotel in Exeter with the team.

The stretch of 28 years and nine months has seen David travel hundreds of thousands of miles over four decades to cover the non-league side.

“I have missed large chunks of matches after being delayed en route on a couple of occasions,” added David, who has followed his side to Germany and France for pre-season friendlies.

“Bad traffic on the way to a midweek cup tie at Tooting & Mitcham United in 1986 led to me getting there at half time.

“I used to work for Ian Allan publishing and after attending an exhibition they were doing in central London in April 1987 I got down to Bognor Regis Town only ten minutes before half time.

“But other than that, I’ve been pretty fortnate and just missed a few minutes at a small number of other games after arriving late (it is rare).

“It is disappointing not to complete 30 years but it had to happen sometime.”

David ended up missing a rare defeat for St Albans City as they were beaten 1-0 at Bideford at The Sports Ground.

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  • February 21, 2014 at 10:32 am

    here’s to dedicated hyperlocal football reporting

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