(Picture: Gibbo’s 92)
By Matt Bishop
A Chinese fan has flown over 12,000 miles to visit ninth-tier North West Counties League Premier Division side Runcorn Linnets – after falling in love with them on Football Manager.
While many overseas fans are attracted by the bright lights of Old Trafford, Anfield or The Emirates, Huang Wenbin, from Xiamen in China, was attracted to the Millbank Linnets Stadium.
His love affair with the Linnets goes back to his days spent playing Championship Manager 01/02, when he took charge Runcorn FC Halton as they were then called.
After signing the likes of Ryan Giggs, David Beckham, Edgar Davids and, erm, Michael Appleton, Wenbin unsurprisingly won everything in sight – including the Premier League and the UEFA Cup.
His support for the club grew so much that he decided to visit Michael Ellison’s men, telling Mirror Football: “The first time I made the decision to find Runcorn FC was in 2015.
“I went to Liverpool by train to watch Steven Gerrard’s last match at Anfield.
“When the train was parking, I saw a sign for Runcorn. I told my friend I will be there again to find my club.”
IYKWIM?By the fans?For the fans… pic.twitter.com/xWKL1JwGg7
— wenbin (@huangandersson) October 15, 2017
Despite enduring a few difficulties on his travels, Wenbin stuck to his word, and made it over to Runcorn this weekend with his young family.
“We all breathed a sigh of relief when we saw that someone was waiting for us in front of the stadium. We spent over 24 hours to arrive in Liverpool from Xiamen in China,” he said.
“We missed the bus station and got lost on the road in the countryside near Runcorn Linnets.
“We spent three hours trying to find the club. It must be my fault for my poor English speaking and listening.”
Fortunately, after their long journey, the family were given a warm welcome upon arriving in Runcorn, with the club’s chairman Mark Buckley more than happy to show Wenbin around the ground – and even let his son have a kick-about on the pitch.
“It was quite humbling, because he was such an honest and polite man. I really, really enjoyed it personally,” Buckley said. “It was a fabulous few hours.
“He has already emailed me umpteen photos and his thoughts from the day, so I think I’ve found myself a pen pal for life, which is brilliant and I’m looking forward to keeping in touch. He’s a thoroughly decent bloke.”