FA Cup: Prof Jonathan Van-Tam on his 50-year love affair with Boston United

Prof Jonathan Van-Tam, Deputy Chief Medical Officer and Boston United Fan proudly wore his Pilgrims tie to a Downing Street briefing held in May 2020
"I am proud to be a Boston United supporter. I am always willing to help the Pilgrims get on the map in any way I can. It means a lot," said Prof Jonathan Van-Tam.

The professor is England's deputy chief physician officer and a familiar face to millions of viewers during his appearances at Downing Street coronavirus briefings.

He enjoys watching his beloved Boston United in action in the National League North, the sixth tier of English football.

He has worn an amber-and black club tie at Downing Street's podium, as well as namedropping his favorite team live on national television.

He said, "I am a Boston United season-ticket holder who is a devout Boston United fan and I want football to return," at a briefing held in May 2020 following a government announcement that competitive sports could be played behind closed doors.

The Pilgrims are preparing for Saturday's FA Cup second qualifying round tie with Corby Town. Professor Michael Smith speaks to BBC Sport about his 50 year love affair with his hometown team, selfies with fans and the joy of being asked to vacinate his favorite players.

He adds, "It was just brilliant moment vaccinating players." "The only problem is that I didn't have my scrubs on so I couldn't wear my Boston United shirt."

Professor Jonathan Van-Tam is ready to vaccinate Boston United striker Jordan Burrow

Bike it to the games

Professor Van-Tam was seven years old when his grandad took Prof Van-Tam to his first match. They cycled three and a quarter miles each way to York Street, where they could watch the Lincolnshire team in the Northern Premier League against Macclesfield Town, Wigan Athletic and Morecambe.

He says, "You didn’t lock your bike during those days." "You carried it behind one the stands and it went straight into the ground.

He was hooked immediately.

Jim Kabia, a legendary Pilgrims striker, was his hero growing up. "I met him just recently. He had seen me on television and said, "I can't Believe I'm Meeting You" and I stood there saying, "I can't Believe I'm Meeting You".

When he was nine years old, he was a Boston Grammar School student. In 1974, he was part a club record 11,000 people at York Street in support of Derby County's visit to the FA Cup third-round replay.

Just 18 months ago, the Rams were champions of England and Boston held them to an 0-0 draw at The Baseball Ground.

The same day, Derby won by the same margin against Boston in 1955. This was a 6-1 loss that Boston suffered in 1955.

Professor: "The ground was so crowded that we had to put our kids on grass next to the touchline." "It was an afternoon kickoff, and all the schools were closed. "I have the programme in a frame at my home."

Because of his long hours as a junior physician, he missed the FA Trophy final defeat to Wealdstone by 1985. However, he was present at Hayes 2002 to see Boston promoted into the Football League external link for the first-time.

Prof Van-Tam was sad to see the club he loves fall into financial ruin. He also witnessed Paul Gascoigne, an England icon, don a Boston shirt in 2004.

Gazza said that even at the end his playing career Gazza still had little glimpses of genius.

"A little bit of York Street in my home"

After having attended hundreds of York Street games, Prof Van-Tam wanted to preserve a piece in history. In 2020, Boston will leave their old ground for the Jakemans Community Stadium. It has been constructed to Football League standards.

He says, "I had a small extension built on my family home that serves as our sports bar." It has a small bar and a 65 inch TV for watching sports. This is where I keep my Boston United shirts signed and my match balls.

"What I really wanted was for York Street to have a turnstile so that you could click through it to access the sport.

"But they weren’t for sale, and some family members were having absolutely nothing of it in any event.

"But I was able to purchase a Sports Bar sign outside the ground through a charity auction. It is now in my sports bar, above the TV. It's a little piece of York Street inside my house."

Prof Van-Tam also has a board listing club sponsor names that managers can present to for post-match interviews.

He added: "When fans couldn't go to the games last season I followed Boston via the live stream. Although it wasn't exactly the same, it was still better than nothing.

Boston United has left York Street, their home for 87 years, in August 2020

On 17 July 2021, the Jakemans Community Stadium hosted its first match before fans. More than 1,000 people watched a preseason friendly against Lincoln City.

"The referee bought my a drink."

Professor Van-Tam was among the 723 to witness the 2-1 win at Bradford Park Avenue AFC on 30 Aug. He claims he is well-known because of his appearances on TV.

"I am often asked to take a selfie. It's not intrusive, and they know that I'm there because I love Boston United and don't want any talk about work.

The Pilgrims hosted a friendly at Matlock Town on 9 July. This gave the professor the chance to don his club shirt, share a pint with other fans, and then watch the team play.

The referee approached Prof Van-Tam before kick-off.

"He recognized me and ran over to say "Thanks for the big effort on Covid stuff -I've got to buy your a drink."

Prof Van-Tam says, "Non-league soccer is earthy." It's easy to have conversations with people you don’t know.

They don't know anything about you, although they may know more about me theses days. You don't know much about their families, but you have a kind of bond with them at games. It's all about that.

Professor, who has "determined" to get a tattoo with the Boston United Crest crest, was delighted to personally vaccinate Pilgrims strikers Jordan Burrow, and Jordan Preston.

"I told them that I thought they were more nervous than me." It is a great example for others to follow their lead when you have young, sensible footballers who are willing to do the right thing.

Professor Van-Tam vaccinated Boston United strikers Jordan Burrow and Jordan Preston (left),

If approached, would he consider a position on Boston United's board?

"I would think about it for approximately 0.5 seconds before saying yes. It would take a good discussion to determine the role.

"As much I love wearing a Boston United tie on the Downing Street podium, it's not something I want to wear at games. I prefer the black and amber shirt.