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Tuesday, 21 October 2014

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Football team's bus-driving pastor would have to pass on Wembley dream

A promotion-chasing football team are praying their good form continues so their Cumbrian bus driver can shuttle players to all their games.

Graham Emerson photo
Graham Emerson

Fleetwood Town are currently sitting in sixth place in League Two, which would see them bag a slot in the play-offs if things stay as they are.

But while a place in the play-offs isn’t to be sniffed at, the Lancashire club is hoping its players can bridge the three-point gap and land an automatic promotion place so bus driver Graham Emerson won’t miss a game.

Mr Emerson, 37, of Clifton, near Penrith, is a pastor at the Church in the Barn in Penrith and cannot work Sundays, which is when the play-off final at Wembley would be played.

Mr Emerson, who works for Wigton-based Reays, drives team members to all their away games, which are usually on Saturdays. Sundays he spends preaching and leading prayers in his church.

“Church is my first priority so I wouldn’t go with them on a Sunday,” said Graham.

“There was another game that was scheduled on a Sunday which I didn’t go on.

“If they got to Wembley then I would love to go, but unfortunately I can’t.

“I don’t like missing games but at this level I’m fortunate that there aren’t many on a Sunday.

“I would miss it with a little bit of a heavy heart but God comes first. I will pray for them privately though.”

And if Fleetwood make it to the finals of the Johnstone’s Paints Trophy that too would be played on a Sunday at Wembley.

The second leg of that competition’s northern final is being played against Chesterfield next week.

Fleetwood’s players have such an affection for their favourite bus driver that on the previous Sunday game he missed they sent Graham a message saying that the journey wouldn’t be the same without him, something that he says makes him feel part of the team.

Mr Emerson admits that while he didn’t know what to expect from a bunch of footballers at first, he has developed a good relationship with the team.

“I get on really well with the lads and the manager. They are really nice and I get on with the goalkeepers Scott Davies and David Lucas particularly well – I talk to them the most,” he added.

“They were brought up with the church so I talk to them about faith, as I do with a number of the players and say a prayer for them privately. Some of them have said I should be their chaplain.

“I have always liked football and used to go and watch Carlisle United when I was younger, so it’s a privilege to go and watch the games and drive for them.

“It’s always a good atmosphere on the way back if they’ve won – not so much if they’ve lost.”

Reays runs team buses for a number of football teams at various levels.

Andy Horn, the company’s operations manager, said: “Graham is a popular figure with passengers, including all the Fleetwood Town players.”

A Fleetwood Town spokesman said: “Graham is a popular part of the team. It would be a shame if we were to turn around the deficit at Chesterfield next week and get to Wembley, if Graham couldn’t be with us.

“We do, of course, understand his other important commitments outside his work, but are sure he will manage time to get to a TV in time for kick-off.”

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