Exile returns home to follow the Blues

Whitby exile Michael Stubbs has returned from Australia to follow Whitby Town FC for the 2016/17 season with his partner Penny Murrell. Picture: Scott Wicking
Whitby exile Michael Stubbs has returned from Australia to follow Whitby Town FC for the 2016/17 season with his partner Penny Murrell. Picture: Scott Wicking

Whitby Town supporter Michael Stubbs has returned home 52 years after emigrating to Australia to spend the 2016/17 season following the club.

The 67-year-old left Whitby in 1964 when his parents, John and Louise Stubbs, took the decision to relocate to Sydney.

A keen Blues fan, and follower of Premier League Middlesbrough FC, Stubbs has kept track of his two favourite teams’ progress from afar over the past five decades.

But having retired following a long and distinguished career in the Royal Australian Navy and later the Department of Defence, he decided that it was about time he returned to cheer on his boyhood side from the terraces of the Turnbull Ground.

“My partner Penny asked me what I wanted to do in retirement and I replied that since I left the UK at a relatively early age I would like to spend a year in the country living in the Whitby district, touring and supporting two football clubs I have followed since I was a lad,” Stubbs explained.

“Ever since I left in 1964 I have kept an eager eye on both and used to read all about Whitby Town in the Whitby Gazette as my parents had friends who sent them copies to Australia on a regular basis.

“To my surprise, Penny said we should do it, and we arrived in Whitby in June with plans to stay until May 2017.”

Stubbs has already taken in a number of Blues games, including their pre-season friendly with Bishop Auckland, for which he was club mascot for the day.

“I asked one of the club officials what the age cut-off was to be a mascot and I was told it was 12-years-old,” the former East Whitby Primary and Eskdale School pupil said.

“I remarked that I wished I had been able to be a mascot when I supported the club as a boy, and next thing I knew the club offered me the chance to do it for the Bishop Auckland match.

“It was a lot of fun and another example of how friendly and accomodating Graham Manser and everyone at the Turnbull Ground, as well as all the people I’ve met in the town have been since Penny and I arrived.”

Stubbs plans to take in as many Blues games as possible this season, as well as watching Middlesbrough at the Riverside, and says he has been impressed by what he has seen of Chris Hardy’s side thus far.

“I’m going to go to as many Whitby and Middlesbrough home games as possible while I’m here, as well as jumping on the bus for a couple of away trips.

“From the matches I’ve attended so see far, Whitby seem to play some good football. The whole set-up is so much more professional than it was back when I was watching in the 1960s. It’s very different.

“The other most noticable difference is obviously the ground. The main stand wasn’t here when I was a lad, but it looks very impressive.

“It’s just great to be back home and I’m really looking forward to the rest of the season.”