The second in my irregular series of interviews with exiled and overseas Bury fans is focused across the pond – Armando Diaz is under the spotlight with his answers coming shortly after the U.S. Men’s National Team’s catastrophic failure to reach the 2018 World Cup in Russia…
Firstly, who are you?
My name is Armando Diaz and I am originally from Miami, Florida currently residing in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
How did you come to support Bury?
I came to support Bury several years ago. I read about the club’s plight to remain in existence (prior to Day purchasing the club) and I purchased several shares in the club. I started following the club during the 2012-2013 season. After a tragic occurrence I decided to travel to the U.K. and make it to Bury for a match.
Have you been to Gigg Lane before? If so, what was your first match and how would you describe the ‘experience’?
When I arrived at Gigg Lane I didn’t know what to expect. My wife and I were one of the first ones there. Right away the locals knew we weren’t from the Northwest. (My wife had sunglasses perched on her head…dead giveaway) John Raftery offered us some food which he had made for a Bury youth match. He listened to my accent (also a dead giveaway) and took me in as one of his own. I quickly met Jaime Hipwell, his father and several other outstanding individuals.
23/11/2013 was my first Bury match. We were in League Two at the time, Blackwell had been sacked and Jepson led the team on an interim basis. Played Wimbledon to a 0-0 draw. I came back a few nights later to watch the Shakers defeat Hartlepool 1-0 on a Daniel Nardiello goal.
Prior to the first match, John gave me a tour of the field and was (and still is) a most gracious host. I have been watching Shakers matches over the last few seasons on a platform called Wyscout. Granted, I wouldn’t watch them live but it would give me a good idea of how the team was playing. I would listen in to the radio call and try to engage Maurice Dickson via Twitter. I did it so often I wouldn’t be surprised if he thought it was a wind up!
How have you found the international version of iFollow? Does it make you feel ‘closer’ to the club now that you can watch all the non-televised matches in full?
I think iFollow is a good option for us Shakers who live overseas. Plus, it creates an additional revenue stream for the club. The combination of iFollow and the group chat John moderates on Whatsapp is what brings us all together. It’s a good group with loads of banter.
Who have been your favourite Bury players, past or present and why?
Daniel Nardiello and Nathan Cameron. Cameron at times makes defending look effortless. I hope he can get back into the pitch as soon as possible. When I first visited Gigg in 2013, my wife’s secretary had a son serving in the U.S. military and was stationed in Afghanistan. He is a Manchester United supporter and his mum wanted us to bring something back for him. So my wife and I took a tour of Old Trafford. With all due respect to the retail set up I wasn’t going to come back to the States with a shot glass!
I wanted something more personable that I could bring back. I began scouring the rosters of teams around Manchester and looking to see if they had loan or former Man U players. That’s when I learned Nardiello had played for United briefly. So I turn up to Gigg for the midweek fixture against Hartlepool with a Man Ut. scarf. I get asked why am I carrying the bloody thing around! I explain my plight and my idea to get Nardiello to sign it to anyone who would have a listen.
Once again John comes to the rescue. Once the match ends he puts me in front of Gordon Sorfleet to explain my situation. Without even thinking twice about it Gordon hurries me up to the locker room and gets Daniel to come out from the locker room to sign the scarf. In fact he did this while making the BBC wait for an interview! Daniel had scored the goal in a 1-0 Bury win that evening.
What do you think the realistic aim is for this season?
I am not a big fan of prognosticating but I would have settled for a safe mid-table finish at the start of the campaign. When the gaffer’s comments made their way into the program of a top six finish I felt it added another layer of pressure to the players and coaching staff.
If you were the manager (and all the players were available for selection), who would be in your starting XI and how would they set out?
Do you watch much domestic football in the U.S.?
I do follow the lower leagues here in the States. I watch MLS as well. The draft is common in American sports. What people don’t get to add is that the draft is a wonderful time to get organizations together for meetings and for initiatives. Plus it helps teams in colder climates travel to California, Arizona or Florida in January!
What do you make of the MLS draft system? Is it something other leagues should look to copy or is it holding backing the sport?
Although I don’t think it’s outdated, fewer and fewer college players are making an impact on MLS. In any given year a dozen or so players will earn meaningful playing time in the league. That’s difficult to justify when roughly 60 players are drafted every year.
I am writing this after learning of the national team’s inability to qualify for the World Cup. The sport in the U.S. can’t elevate itself beyond niche status. There is loads of interest in the Premier League, Bundesliga and La Liga. It is not uncommon to find an American who feels the national team is like their club team as opposed to following an MLS or lower league team.
The game in this country is marred by too many factors such as geographical size, ‘pay to play’ and a general sense of exclusion to anyone who thinks differently than the hierarchy.
I can ramble on about Bury F.C. for a few thousand words but I won’t bore any of your readers any longer! It’s been said supporters don’t choose who to follow the club chooses the supporter. On the cold morning in November back in 2013 Bury F.C. and its supporters (John Raftery and Jaime Hipwell) chose me. I feel lucky to have come across individuals who have become friends and like an extended family to me and my wife. I am truly lucky to consider myself a Shaker.