In this series, passionate soccer supporters tell their story of falling in love with the beautiful game, and how they’re helping lead the charge in their communities to support new clubs in the Canadian Premier League. Allan Gorman of Barton St. Battalion is one of those dedicated supporters in Hamilton.
The Scotland-born Hamiltonian, who grew up supporting Rangers and Chelsea and lived in England, Singapore, and Australia, now coaches youth soccer in Hamilton. He spoke with CanPL.ca about Forge FC and Barton St. Battalion, sharing his thoughts on how his passionate group will take to the stands at Tim Hortons Field come April of 2019.
CPL: How did you first hear about Barton St. Battalion?
Gorman: “I found out about the group about a month after it started. I heard it from my friends while at a Toronto FC game that the Canadian Premier League had just been announced … A Hamilton journalist from the Spectator had mentioned that Canada’s getting a league, and that Hamilton and Winnipeg would be involved. I read into it more, and two or three months later, I met James Hutton who created the group. We were both doing volunteer coaching down at Tim Hortons Field for a grassroots program. James had created the group when a bunch of guys were in a pub watching Canada games. Between them, they discussed the idea, you know, ‘is there any interest in creating a group for this? It’s been announced, it looks like it’s going to happen, okay, it’s fumes, but should we run with it?’ Between them, the group was created, in 2016, a good two years before the league was announced. I know for a fact we were the first supporters group to be announced. From there, within a week or two after meeting James, I was heavily involved. Between us, we’ve done a lot of stuff with festivals, tables and stalls, selling merchandise and trying to grow the group from a few guys at a pub to where we are now – 350 scarves sold, events and meetups every two or three weeks. It’s grown so much over the last couple years. We’ve had 50, 60 people turn up, and the people we met and the way it’s grown has been really interesting.”
CPL: What’s the story behind the name Barton St. Battalion?
Gorman: “Barton St. Battalion came about from Barton St., the closest main street to Tim Hortons Field. It’s a street that’s a bit rough around the edges, but come gameday for Ticats games, that street comes to life. The group name was based around that area, and that street. Even the logo, the hammer is representatives of the nickname “the Hammer” for Hamilton, and the links that go around it are actually the links that go around the Hamilton city flag, as well as the little flower that’s inside of it, so the group logo is based on that flag.
CPL: Where does the group typically meet?
Gorman: We’ve had a few locations. There’s the Capitol Bar near the stadium where we’ve all been meeting up lately. That’s pretty much our headquarters for a lot of our events, and a lot of things coming forward, with pub quizzes and other meetups we have planned for the months ahead. There’s another bar that’s actually owned by the Arkells, a band that’s kind of exploded, they’re from Hamilton – they’ve reached out to us and we’ve been setting up some group meetings to go down there as well. The band has been fully supportive of what we’re doing, a few of the band members have got a load of our merch as well. Actually, they had a sell-out concert at Tim Hortons Field and it was funny, we could see Battalion merchandise being worn in the stadium, which was quite a surreal experience. It was once a small idea that’s now come to life. You’ve got people walking around the city, wearing merchandise and supporting a team that once didn’t even exist.”
CPL: The Ticats are quite popular in Hamilton – where do you see Forge FC fitting into the sporting fabric of the city, and have you noticed any growth in the interest for soccer in Hamilton?
Gorman: “Oh, top question. You only have to look at Hamilton hosting the Pan Am Games at Tim Hortons Field, and that tournament was a huge success. The legacy that was left from that actually funded a lot of grassroots soccer programs here as well. The attendance for Pan Ams was great, and the Women’s World Cup in Canada, the warm-up game between Canada and England was at Tim Hortons Field as well. Even just back a couple months, Canada vs. Germany in a friendly was close to 24,000, that was close to a sell-out. There was 500 of us in a standing section alongside the Voyageurs and everyone was there screaming and shouting for a friendly. Those games have been welcomed with open arms. Really, every single moment of soccer in Hamilton has. Plus, there’s over 20 youth teams in Hamilton. It’s the most participated sport. And, when the World Cup came around (this summer), it’s almost like other sports don’t exist. The whole city embraced it beyond belief. You could see cars with flags everywhere and people screaming and shouting and supporting their country. Given the city’s background and how it came to life and how it’s changed from blue-collar work to a more diverse city, this city has just exploded. Everyone seems to be fully on board with soccer.”
CPL: Forge FC comes into the CPL with a well-established stadium in hand. How do you think Tim Hortons Field will factor into the gameday experience for visiting sides?
“The intimidation factor always comes from the fans. It never comes from the stadium. If you look at any stadium in the world, there are imposing stadiums, but that’s associated with the fans within it and the noise they generate. Conversely, Manchester United is renowned now for sitting in silence and not being as loud as they were during their glory days. Stadiums are where the soccer is produced but the fans are the ones who bring the intimidation and the noise. They also bring the passion, and if there’s no passion in a stadium, you can have a 1,000-seat stadium or a 100,000-seat stadium and it won’t make a difference.”
CPL: How far along has Barton St. Battalion come since being founded in 2016?
Gorman: “You saw from the club launch, the noise we generated and the passion we had behind the stage, the flags, the streamers, smoke, we had the drum, and everyone was full voice. We made an impression on it, and from watching the other launches, there was definitely a big presence felt. That won’t change – if anything, that’s only going to explode when the team kicks off. When the season begins and when we’re in that section, our job is to get everyone in the stadium as loud as we are. We’ve spoken with the club directly to have space behind us, too, so people can feel like they can come on down and join in with us, sing songs, wave flags and go from there.”
CPL: What are some of your short- and long-term hopes and expectations for Forge FC?
Gorman: “We’ve been looking on with envy with some of the hirings of managers. When you’ve got people like Rob Gale and Tommy Wheeldon focusing on developing young players, that’s something I hope Hamilton does the exact same with Forge FC. We all want that. The best-supported players are the ones that have come through the academies and are from the city. You somehow shout louder for them, or maybe just as much as you do for the superstars. You get fully on board with them, especially in a city like Hamilton. We’d love to see someone from our own city go and thrive and become a star, like Alex Bunbury did. At the same time, this is a city that would enjoy the more physical aspects of the game. If there’s a couple of rough challenges and tackles, that would get people going just as much.
“But the best part about Forge FC coming to Hamilton? My son’s eight years old and he’ll get to go to the stadium and watch his heroes run around the stadium the same way I did when I was little. That’s the most important thing.”
You can check out Barton St. Battalion on Facebook for more information about the group, as well as ForgeFootball.Club to secure your membership with a deposit ahead of the CPL’s inaugural 2019 season.