Video: Love match - Town fan to marry Canary

BITTER footballing rivalries will be kicked into touch tomorrow when a lifelong Ipswich Town fan and an ardent Norwich City supporter tie the knot.

Simon Tomlinson

TWO star-crossed football fans are preparing to drop their rivalry to the bench when they get married on Valentine's Day.

Ipswich Town supporter Simon Bardsley and Norwich City devotee Claire Hales will tie the knot tomorrow - but they hope to be finished in time to catch all the Championship action.

Miss Hales, of Thwaite, said: “I have a Norwich City tattoo on my leg, although I have had orders to keep it covered up.

“But we couldn't have a better day to get married.”

In the blue corner, Mr Bardsley will be flanked by his best man and brother-in-law, Rob Duckett, and his brother, Michael, who are both Ipswich Town season ticket holders.

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In the yellow corner, Miss Hales will be given away by her father, John, a lifelong Norwich City fan, and will be ably supported by the minister conducting the ceremony, Stephen Yelland, who is also a Canaries follower.

Miss Hales, 33, said: “Hopefully we will be out of the church by 3pm so they can all have their radios on.

“But romance wins the day, because if there's one day to get married on, it is Valentine's Day.”

The wedding will be held at Cotton Church, where Miss Hales has strong ties.

Several members of her family are buried in the churchyard, including her twin boys who died after being born prematurely 15 years ago. Miss Hale's mother, Myrtle, is also the church warden.

The couple's relationship began eight years ago after they started leaving joke notes about each other's football teams when they were working at the Tothill Garage on the A14 near Stowmarket.

Mr Bardsley, 38, said: “We have had a bit of a rocky past. We got together and broke up and now we are back together again.

“It is about time I grew up. Settling down with Claire is the best thing that could have happened to me.”

Last year, Miss Hales decided to make the bond permanent when she proposed.

She said: “Simon adopted Rosa the elephant at Colchester Zoo as a present to me one Christmas.

“Last June we went to Colchester Zoo and there was a plaque up with my name on it.

“I had phoned the zoo and told them I would like to propose so when we got there I had arranged for an A4 sheet to be put over the plaque saying 'Simon, will you marry me?”

How the couple met:-

FOOTBALLING rivalry can take credit for bringing the couple together months before they even met.

The pair were working at a garage in Norfolk in 2000, although they never saw each other because Miss Hales was a night attendant and Mr Bardsley was the day manager.

But word got out about their opposing passions and they started leaving humorous notes to one another.

Eventually they met face-to-face and their relationship took off.

Miss Hales moved into Mr Bardsley's home in Ipswich but they split up before rekindling their relationship two years ago.

This time they lived apart because Mr Bardsley couldn't sell his home, but he finally moved in with Miss Hales on Monday - just five days before their wedding.

They have also just had a daughter, Natalie, 16 weeks ago.

Miss Hales said: “People say they are the most stressful things in life and we are doing all three in one go.”

Best and worst moments:-

Miss Hales: Best moment

- “Going to the Millenium Stadium in Cardiff in 2002 to watch Norwich City against Birmingham in the Division One play-off final. Norwich lost on penalties.

“Even though we didn't win, it was an emotional time for me because I was six months pregnant. The stadium was out of this world.”

Worst moment

- “Standing in Portman Road and losing 5-0 against Ipswich in 1998. All my friends are Ipswich Town fans. My phone was red, red, hot that night.”

Mr Bardsley: Best moment

- “Any Derby match when Ipswich win is a great day!”

Worst moment

- “Standing with Claire when Norwich beat Ipswich.”