Despite growing up 120 miles from Dundee, a strong family connection to the city and its oldest football club meant there was always but one team for Ryan Norrie.
Whereas most Dark Blues are Dundee born and bred, Ryan – who joined the Dee4Life board in June after being a member for several years – was raised in the Ayrshire town of Dreghorn. Surrounded by fans of the Old Firm and Kilmarnock, Ryan was firmly in a minority of one at school. Despite this, the Norrie family was generations deep in their love for the club and did all they could to ensure a young Ryan was as they were.
“My papa got a job in Irvine in 1971 and that prompted the family move to the Ayrshire coast from the Ardler Multis,” explained Ryan. “My dad was only three at the time, so he has a west coast accent like me. The family have been out of Dundee for a long time but my dad loved the club through his dad and started going to games around 1977.”
“It’s all to do with my dad for me as well. He took me to matches, mainly away games closer to home, initially. I got my Dundee strip each year to wear proudly around my Ayrshire hometown. The obsession began when I was at school. It just felt right.”
Ryan can even date the start of his own love affair with the Dee. It was a week before Christmas 2000 and he was a 7-year-old attending his first ever football match just a few miles from his home. In true Dundee style, the clash with Kilmarnock proved to be something of a rollercoaster.
“I was taken along to Rugby Park as it was practically a home game for us. Steven Milne scored twice in three minutes to snatch the win after being 2-0 down. I fell in love with the club after that game.
“It was odd being a Dundee supporter in Ayrshire. I was in secondary school from 2005 to 2010, so we were languishing in the First Division then. Because we rarely played the Old Firm or Killie at the time, the topic rarely came up other than the odd mocking.
“Most of my mates supported one of the Old Firm, mainly Rangers, and there was as a small pocket of Kilmarnock fans who took more interest in winding me up about being a Dundee supporter. I was never tempted by any other team though. My house was Dundee-obsessed, so I always had a strong connection to the club. The only other team I take some interest in is my local non-league team, Irvine Meadow. My Papa would go to watch the Medda on the weekends he couldn’t get to Dens and I’ve carried on that tradition.”
Ryan’s devotion to Dundee has seen him clock up tens of thousands of miles to follow the team across the country. He has been a season ticket holder for most of his adult life, has been involved in the Walking Down the Provie Road and Up Wi The Bonnets podcasts, and racked up the likes for a video of his acoustic cover of ‘Up Wi The Bonnents’ a few years back.
While Ayrshire may not be a Dark Blue stronghold, Ryan and his dad have found affinity with other west coast-based Dundee fans through their nearest supporters club, the Glasgow Dees. It is a fraternity that he feels is important for out-of-towners to help remain connected to the club.
“It was really refreshing meeting supporters who are in a similar situation, location wise,” he said. “It’s been fantastic for away days and feeling part of a group, which living in Ayrshire as a Dundee fan, you don’t get.
“I’ve made some great friends in the Glasgow Dees and love joining up with them for some pre-match pints. They’ve made me feel welcomed from the day I signed up and if there is any other west coast Dees out there, I’d recommend joining the group.”
Ryan also wants to encourage Dundee supporters to join Dee4Life, and he was motivated to become a director by the club’s plight last season and a desire to ensure it does not happen again.
“I think it’s very important to have a voice for fans to use and build on,” he said. “We need to continue to push for better fan engagement and to build a healthy relationship between the club and its supporters. I feel it also gives me a stronger voice, living away from the city, to be represented along with all other Dundee fans, from all walks of life. Supporters are the lifeblood of our club. Dee4Life can be a voice for those fans and that’s vital.”
More than 50 years have passed since Ryan’s grandparents left their hometown and the Dark Blue torch is once more being passed to another generation. Ryan – who now lives in Ayr – has already begun the process of indoctrinating his son, Jude, although he knows from experience the challenges that he will face in keeping his on the right path in the years to come.
“I’m now facing the same obstacles that my dad probably had with me. I’ve already bought Jude the strips and taught him the appropriate songs etc but it’ll go one of two ways. He’ll fall in love with Dundee like I did, and my dad did, or he’ll end up drifting to one of the teams down here.
“Whatever happens, I’ll be fine with it. I’d obviously prefer him to support Dundee, but I know it can be quite challenging supporting a team 120 miles away. I’m lucky that I had my family and now the Glasgow Dees but it can be a lonely place when you’re young and nobody else supports Dundee in Ayrshire! In saying that, I recently had a random meeting with a Dundee supporter in the middle of Ayr. He spotted Jude playing in his strip and my Dundee tattoo and came over to speak. Maybe there are hundreds of us scattered around here after all!”
“Overall Dundee is very important to me for a lot of different reasons and not just footballing ones. I feel a connection to the city through my grandparents and supporting the club keeps that relationship beating, now that they have both passed.”
To join Ryan in Dee4Life, please CLICK HERE