Key to Grecians bearing gifts

Sue Montgomery confesses to being an Exeter fan and a female hooked to the e-mail
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The Independent Online
Just about the only downside to being the racing correspondent of a Sunday paper is that winter Saturdays have to be spent at the likes of Ascot, Newbury or Cheltenham instead of St James' Park. The St James' Park, that is, not the vulgar monstrosity on Tyneside. And as a card-carrying member of the Exeter City Supporters' Club, sponsor of our dodgy-haircutted No 3 shirt and one of the legendary Newmarket Grecians (total membership 2; though five if you count the cats), absence from the Big Bank is particularly hard to bear this high-flying season.

Thank goodness for technology. National newspapers are not noted for their in-depth coverage and analysis of Third Division matches, and the desire to know more than the stark Exeter 1 Mansfield 0 (a classic Flack attack? a dazzler from Dazza? or in off someone's knee in a goalmouth scramble?) has my eyes glittering red like those of a starving wolf. So it's anorak on, eyes down, dial in for news 'n' views of Peter Fox's red- and-white army.

There are a proud 186 of us on the "GreciaNet e-mail list", including, Manchester United-style only much more dedicated, supporters from all over the world, like Stig and Marius of ECSCON (Exeter City Supporters' Club of Norway), Andy from Spain, Mark from North Carolina, Ben from Sydney, Bruce from Bangkok - and match reports from those who do go are swiftly sent and gratefully received by those who can't.

Match reports and much, much more. "Ecfc-mails" tend to arrive in batches and in effect anyone on the list has access to an ongoing live fanzine. The unique terraces wit transfers very well to the ether. And make that news, views 'n' abuse. The e-mail list can be not so much a forum as a colosseum.

Poor old "Bummer" Bob. The erstwhile gym teacher at a Devon school may have loved his pupils but the sentiments, it seems, were not returned. A colleague, an un-named - at least here - rugby-loving sadist, appears to have been the reason why there are so many dedicated Grecians.

And I am heartily glad I am not the Northampton goalkeeper. The unfortunate custodian briefly played for us four or five years ago and managed to get sent off in an FA Cup tie against Colchester, which we lost. Unsurprisingly he came in for a fair bit of stick last Saturday. "Congratulations to the Cowshed; never before have I heard such a clear and distinct chant as, 'Woodman is a w....r'," wrote one observer, and is a certainty to do so again on Tuesday night at Sixfields. Mild- mannered Martin's tentative suggestion that we should perhaps give the verbals a rest and lay off the bloke was howled down. Forget? Never! Forgive? Never, never, ever!

Mind you, the Newmarket Grecians put up a united front over the constant, and rather boring, slagging of the old enemy Plymouth Argyle, aka GAWS, or green-and-white-slime. It seemed to us that energy was being wasted on them that could be used in supporting you Reds, you Reds. But Yo! Kirky Boy, Chopper and some others thought differently. It would be interesting to know if the suggestion that Grecians should send insulting messages to Argyle fans counts as incitement to violence.

But we get educated as well. The mystery of the club nickname has been solved. Apparently it stems from the time, centuries ago, when the residents of St Sidwells (where the Park now is) styled themselves Grecians, as opposed to the Trojans in a neighbouring parish whom they fought in a staged battle at fairs.

And it's not all footie. Around Armistice Day, Neal, with a South-West Water address, presented a rendering of Brooke's The Soldier. Pete riposted with Owen's Dulce Et Decorum Est, and the comment that his grandad didn't fight the war so South-West Water could hike up the water charges.

The reply came back like a Henman return of serve. " 'We will fight them on the beaches,' said Churchill, allegedly, including Devon's - which thanks to South-West Water's Clean Sweep policies are now among the cleanest in Europe. And at least we are South-West Water and not Sud-West-Wasser."

A year ago the e-mails tended to be prosaic travel advice and the odd snippet about a new signing. It seems now that the service serves a real purpose in informing, entertaining and even, despite the bickering, uniting. It's good to know that so many out there are getting the same sheer heart- soaring delight from the lads this season.

There's no racing on Tuesday night so I'll be at Sixfields. I'm not sure, though, whether it would be a good thing to put faces to names or not. It would be like finding out that that Eddie Grundy doesn't look anything like you imagined him.

It will be interesting to see Andy Woodman, though. Apparently an empty plastic bag would have been better between the sticks for us than him. Hope he plays the same for them.