World Cup 2014: YEPleeds snapper Steve has ticket to watch England in final!

Steve Riding
Steve Riding
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With his shaggy ginger locks and jolly smile, Steve Riding has been a regular face at park football fixtures and Leeds Rhinos games for over three decades.

If you play team sport in this city, chances are you will have seen him and he will have taken a picture of you.

But when he is not doing his job as photographer for the Yorkshire Evening Post, he is following England’s football team around the world. He has almost been doing it as long as he has been taking pictures.

Steve began watching England at Wembley in the late 1970s but his first away game was actually in a World Cup, when Ron Greenwood’s side drew 0-0 with West Germany in Spain in 1982.

His next is tonight in Manaus as Roy Hodgson’s men take on Italy in their opening Group D game of the 2014 World Cup.

How many England away games has he been to as a fan?

“More than 110, but in truth I’ve lost count,” quips Steve.

“The majority are qualifiers. After 1982, I didn’t go to another World Cup until France 1998 because my kids were growing up.

“I went to Germany in 2006 and then I had conditional tickets for the semi-final and final four years ago in South Africa.

“I put all my eggs in the Fabio Capello basket. But I’ve learned my lesson this time, I’m going to the group stages.”

Steve will be in the stands in Manaus tonight and again in Sao Paulo on Thursday for the second group game against Uruguay.

“I’ve got a conditional ticket for the final, though,” he adds.

“If they get there I’ll go back out to Brazil. You can’t follow them all around the world and miss out on the biggest game ever.”

Steve paid £300 for his ticket for the final from the Football Association, money he will get back if they do not get to showpiece in Rio on July 13. The tickets for the two group games cost £50 apiece.

In all, Steve, 62, has spent around £3,000 on his World Cup odyssey to Brazil, which is about his average annual expenditure on his hobby.

His travelling companions this year include Yeadon resident Chris Stuart, whom he says goes to more games than even himself. The two met at Leeds Bradford Airport en route to Oslo for a pre-Euro 2012 warm-up game two summers ago and have been mates ever since.

Back in the day, Steve used to go with the Stoke City branch of the England supporters’ club.

Steve describes himself as forever optimistic. His worst game as an England fan was the 3-2 defeat to Croatia that ended the nation’s hopes of qualifying for Euro 2012.

His best game: “Every time we get a result. I’ll never say anything bad about England and I’ll never boo them.”

So what about this tournament? “I hope Roy plays the kids because we’ve got to change this era of mediocrity,” says Steve.

“If we play the kids and go for it, then I think at least people back home will be understanding.”

Paul Heckingbottom.

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