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Sports editor pens tale of 35-year ‘love affair’

A regional daily sports editor has written a book documenting three-and-a-half decades following lower league football.

Simon Carter, of the Southern Daily Echo, has detailed his memories of supporting Exeter City FC in ‘Gus Honeybun, your boys took one hell of a beating’.

Fed up with walking into bookshops and seeing shelves of books about the likes of Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur, Simon decided to commit to paper his own memories following Exeter around English football’s lower leagues.

The book starts off with Simon’s memories of a 1981 FA Cup tie against Newcastle, which unfancied Exeter won 4-0, and follows his ups and downs since then to end with another match in the same competition this season, when Liverpool were held to a 2-2 draw by the club.

Gus Honeybun

Said Simon: “The Premier League dominates the book shelves and it dominates our media, but thousands of football supporters live their lives far away from the obscene wealth and the overpaid foreign mercenaries of the Premier League.

“I thought to myself one day, ‘why don’t I write a book about my club?’ There are hundreds of books on top flight football. Why not write one about the game in the lower divisions?

“However, I would like the book to be more than just a good read for my fellow Exeter supporters. I’ve written it as a love affair to the lower divisions. We might not watch the best football in the country, but we are the best supporters.

“I would also like all Premier League club supporters to read the book, so they can appreciate there is life in the lower divisions, that there are people who are passionate about clubs in the third and fourth divisions.”

The book’s unusual name comes from Gus Honeybun, the former mascot of Westward Television, who would occasionally sport memorabilia of Exeter’s Devon rivals Plymouth Argyle on screen.

Simon, 47, explained: “Like thousands of Westcountry kids, I grew up with Gus Honeybun reading out birthday requests as a comforting presence on my television screen.

“I liked his ridiculous bunny winks, his bunny hops and the fact he used to stand on his head when the lights were turned out. I didn’t like the fact that he used to wear a green and white Plymouth scarf in the 80s whenever Argyle had a big game, but he didn’t wear the scarf often, obviously.

“I am no longer a teenager and Gus Honeybun no longer appears on television. I have my own kids now – aged 12 and 14 – and their technology-filled lives are so different to my own when I was their age. Puppet rabbits do not read out birthday messages anymore. More’s the pity, I say.”

Simon has worked as sports editor at the Southampton-based Daily Echo since 2002, and previously worked at the Western Gazette, Derby Telegraph, Exeter Express & Echo and Bristol Evening Post.

The book was launched at Exeter’s St James’s Park stadium on 1 April. It is available from Amazon, Pitch Publishing and in bookshops for £12.99.