Liberté, Égalité, McAulé - Roger’s on tour with The GAWA again

Roger Woodend, Andy Milliken and Alex Logan.
Roger Woodend, Andy Milliken and Alex Logan.

Have you heard the one about the Coleraine man who is travelling to France via New York to watch his beloved Northern Ireland?

As many Northern Ireland fans prepare for a short journey over the English Channel Roger Woodend has a transatlantic flight ahead of him from the Big Apple - but he wouldn’t change it for the world.

“I’m so excited, can’t sleep, can’t wait,” he told Times Sport.

“I am going for the first week, first two games, then back to New York, where the supporters’ club will be getting together for those not at the game. I should be able to get back for the knock our stages.

“There are many of the US NISC travelling to France, and a get together is planned in Nice on the Saturday before our game.

“I am also meeting up with friends from Coleraine, as well as Sydney, Hong Kong and other parts of NI. We’ve hired a camper van and intend to visit the wineries at Chateau Neuf Du Papes in between the games in Nice and Lyon.”

Andy Milliken and Alex Logan in Brazil.

Andy Milliken and Alex Logan in Brazil.

Roger has been one of the driving forces behind the formation of a New York NI Supporters’ Club.

“I’ve been working in Australia and Hong Kong for the last seven years, but recently I got the chance to move to the Big Apple - its an amazing City for sport, and football is really establishing itself as a major sport here ,” he explained.

“The move also gives me more opportunity to get to NI home and away games, as well as Coleraine FC of course.

“When I arrived in NY I sought out a club but soon realised that whilst there is a US NISC, there was no club for fans based in New York, and New Jersey.

“I decided to set up the club as a way for NI fans to meet socially to support NI and make new friends and the intent is to use the Euro’s as a way to raise our profile so that we can follow the team all the way to Russia and beyond.

“There’s a strong Northern Irish heritage on the East Coast of the US, and I’ve been approached by NI ex-pats and locals with NI ancestry about the club.

“I was involved with the Sydney NISC for many years. The club is massive and meets regularly in Sydney and has raised thousands of dollars for charities in Sydney, as well as entering 5-a-side teams in football tournaments.

“There are also NISC’s in Melbourne, Perth and Brisbane - recently they had a Convention for all those clubs on Sydney Harbour. Most members are going to France.

“I was also involved in the Hong Kong club, which is getting bigger, and includes is members based in Shanghai, Beijing and other major Chinese cities.”

Roger has been travelling the globe watching Northern Ireland since 2001 and he is relishing watching them live at a major tournament for the first time.

“My first game was in the Czech Republic,” he said.

“Five of us from Coleraine, and around 400 other fans travelled to the game which was played in Teplice, a couple of hours outside Prague.

“It was a very memorable trip it included experiencing East European culture for the first time, after which we were hooked on away travel.

“In 2014, three of us from Coleraine travelled for 3 weeks at to the World Cup in Brazil. One of my friends Andrew Milliken, lives for NI away games and I think he’s been to the vast majority of NI away games over the last 15 years, including tournaments in the Caribbean and South America. Even though NI didn’t make it to Brazil, we felt that we represented NI over there.

“I think I speak for all true NI fans in saying that we never doubted this day would come, its been a long wait, but we kept believing and now this will be a landmark in our lives as supporters.

“The team have been amazing, to top a group is a great achievement and now anything can happen - we have nothing to lose and everyone attending with enjoy it to the maximum.

“The team have been immense, and everyone deserves so much credit. For us, this is the pinnacle for the players, management and fans. I am sure the team will perform to their best. The fans certainly will.”

So who does Roger fancy taking on in the final?

“I’d like to play England again,” he said

“I was there when we beat them in 2005. We would have a significant advantage playing them in a major final, not least because all the pressure would be in them.

“All we need to do is for Big G, former Coleraine man Gareth MacAuley, to take care of Kane and Vardy!”