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850-mile round trip to home games: Is this Ross County Football Club's most dedicated fan?

By Niall Harkiss

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Social worker Ian Ellson travels 420 miles from his home in North Wales to take in a Ross County home game.
Social worker Ian Ellson travels 420 miles from his home in North Wales to take in a Ross County home game.

How far would you travel for your club?

While recalling stories of his travels as Ross County’s furthest-flung supporter, Ian Ellson’s mobile phone ping persistently – a consequence of his new fame as a viral sensation.

The dedicated Staggies supporter, who has been making 850-mile round trips to Dingwall from his home in Halkyn, North Wales for the past 17 years, was this week presented with a special opportunity by first team manager Don Cowie.


In recognition of his dedication to the cause, the club has offered Ian the chance to rub shoulders with the Staggies squad ahead of their game against league leaders Rangers at Global Energy Stadium.

Ian said: “Moscow, United States, Canada, Norway, Sweden, Nigeria. I have heard from Staggies fans all over who have come across my story.

“Don called me and I rang him back. He told me that I have been invited back to meet the players when County play Rangers next month. Steve Ferguson has also left messages for me. Ross County is everything to me. It just means so much.”

Originally an Aston Villa fan, Ian cites a loss of connection between “bigger” clubs and their supporters as one the reasons why he originally turned his attention toward the north of Scotland.

He said: “English football has become so commercial. They are asking silly money for season tickets. The demand is now far greater than the supply. I feel that the bigger clubs, not all of them, but many have lost that engagement with the supporters.”

Ian Ellson and his best friend on matchdays, William, who he attends home games with.
Ian Ellson and his best friend on matchdays, William, who he attends home games with.

Disillusioned, Ian began to rediscover his love for football some 420 miles away from home, while on holiday in the Black Isle in the late 2000s.

A chance visit to the then named Victoria Park in Dingwall sparked the beginning of a long-distance love affair with Ross County Football Club.

“Why Ross County? I don’t know to be honest with you,” Ian admits. “I was up in the Highlands around 16 or 17 years ago on holiday, and while I was here I wanted to go and see the most northerly professional football ground in the country. I expected to see a shed of a ground with one stand, if that, and I couldn’t have been more wrong.

“I went into the souvenir shop, spent a fortune and the staff asked where I was from, and we had a chat. A couple of minutes later we were asked upstairs and I was passed the Second Division trophy (then the third tier), which County had just won, along with the advice, ‘Don’t drop it!’”

“It was a great day, and nothing was too much trouble. I had never seen the team play though, so I went to see County playing Queen of the South away, which was closer for me, but once again we were made so welcome. It’s a welcome I’ve felt everywhere I’ve been as a supporter across Scotland.

“I started attending a couple of home games a season and people got to know me up there. Very quickly, I connected with County as a football club, and more importantly I connected with the supporters. Ross County has a slogan - ‘more than just a football club’. It’s so true. It’s more like a family."

Ian, who balances his passion for the Dingwall club with his job as an agency social worker, estimates that he has amassed in excess of 17,000 miles following the Staggies around the country.

An away day at Pittodrie Stadium in Aberdeen.
An away day at Pittodrie Stadium in Aberdeen.

Driving up and down the length of the M6, M74 and the A9, among other routes, he says he keeps the sat-nav on only to navigate breaks in his journey and to make his way through Glasgow, but is otherwise unfazed by the rigours of long-distance travel.

“Travelling has never bothered me,” he says. “I mostly travel to away games. I just take a look at the fixtures and plan accordingly. There are only four SPFL grounds now that I haven’t visited.

“My favourite memory has to be the Scottish League Cup Final. About two years after it, I was underground and a hand was placed on my shoulder. A woman behind me said ‘Do you remember me? Your name is Ian and you live in North Wales’.

“I then remembered - when the goal went in at the final she was sitting behind me, and we just danced up and down the concourse together. I'll never ever forget that.”

With County facing uncertainty with the threat of relegation looming, Ian says that he will remain a County fan to the end no matter what – and intends to continue clocking up the miles to follow his side.

He added: "It doesn't matter where I go. Motherwell, Kilmarnock, Ayr United, Aberdeen. All over Scotland. I'm always made so welcome by the home club. Scottish football is so friendly.

“I’ve made a lot of friends along the way, a lot who are Staggies supporters, and fans of other clubs. Last season, there were about eight of us round a table at Kilmarnock. A mix of County fans and Kilmarnock fans. All banter, and that to me is so important.

“I could have become a fan of Wrexham, Chester or Tranmere. But I don’t miss English football at all. I’m not a ground-hopper or club hopper. For me, it’s Ross County, and that’s it."

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