Love match: Romantic Valentine’s Day trip to St Andrew's… with sausage roll thrown in
Jinnarat Gregory is a lucky woman. Her husband, Roy, works in the Ukraine as a property consultant for up to four days a week and he likes to treat her when he’s back home in Alcester, near Stratford-upon-Avon. For Valentine’s Day, she’s landed a trip to watch Birmingham City play Hull.
‘I mentioned it ages ago and I don’t think she cottoned on about the dates,’ he says.
‘I’ll get her a sausage roll and I’m sure that’ll make things right.’
Romantic setting: Jinnarat Gregory and husband Roy will spend Valentine's Day at St Andrew's
Roy will be 70 this year and goes to most Birmingham matches. He has done since he was six when his dad, Harold, a former youth teamer at City in the 30s, first took him to St Andrew’s. ‘It was snowing and I got the bug,’ he says.
It has stayed with him through almost seven decades, including 17 years from the early 90s when he was working full-time in the Ukraine. He even set up a supporters’ club there. ‘There were five of us and my Dalmatian, Ari. Then Ari died. Ari loved watching the Blues.’
Naturally, his life-time best memory is Birmingham winning the League Cup at Villa Park in 1963. ‘I’ve been married four times but that was a really, really good day,’ he says. ‘Hull at home will be a good one. We’re both doing well in the league. Should be a good Valentine’s Day.’
The important things in life: Roy Gregory will hope Chris Hughton's Birmingham can take all three points at home to Hull
There will be similar stories up and down and across the country, with 35 Football League matches being played on Tuesday night from the Championship to League Two.
Nineteen of those will feature romantic promotions of varying descriptions, from flower-laced hospitality packages at seven Championship games, to the sale of heart-shaped cupcakes at Bury and free tickets for women at Aldershot’s match against Hereford.
Early indications also suggest there will be two proposals on the pitch at half-time at Birmingham and one each at Portsmouth and Oldham.
Under the thumb: Blackpool's Gary Taylor-Fletcher is loved up with his wife Viv, according to team-mates
As John Nagle, a spokesman for the Football League, put it: ‘What could be more romantic for people in this country than a trip to see your football team play on Valentine’s Day’
One of the longer trips will be the 115 miles undertaken by Blackpool fans to get to Doncaster. There are suspicions among one or two at Bloomfield Road that midfielder Gary Taylor-Fletcher might not be there when they arrive.
Love is in the air: West Ham fans will celebrate Valentine's Day with a home game against second place Southampton
‘He’s the worst of our lot,’ says Ian Evett, the Blackpool centre-half. ‘He is pretty under the thumb. We all love our wives, but he is extremely loved up with Viv. No-one is quite like him, but we have a few romantics at Blackpool.’
One of them will be sat at the front of the bus. ‘Ian Holloway is a massive romantic,’ Evatt says.
‘It can be tough in football. You spend a lot of time away, especially at weekends, and a lot of the time we live away from where we were brought up so you and your wife might not have that much of a network around you. She can be left at home, which if you have young kids or babies is not ideal.
‘For an away game we will normally train on Friday, travel after training and stay over and then get back late on Saturday. That can mean a bit of time away. But, like I say, we’re lucky at Blackpool because the manager is a massive romantic.
‘If one of the boys has a problem at home he will give them time off. He is a real family man – his family is everything to him.
Family man: Blackpool manager Ian Holloway is a romantic at heart
‘He takes his wife, Kim, on the bus on some away games and I’m sure there’ll be some romance on the bus to Doncaster, but hopefully not too much.’
Taylor-Fletcher, however, is apparently at a different level altogether. ‘It will be interesting to see if any of the players mysteriously don’t appear,’ Evatt adds. ‘Fletch might not be allowed to play by his wife. His house number on his phone is under the name Love Nest.
‘Who knows what Valentine’s Day will be like with them
Not a big deal: Reading skipper Jobi McAnuff says won't celebrate Valentine's Day with wife-to-be Jolene
‘For me, I normally cook my wife, Danielle, a nice meal on Valentine’s Day but this year I’ll probably do something on the Monday night. On the Tuesday morning I’ll make her breakfast in bed before going to the game.’
So romance isn’t dead. Except maybe at Bournemouth.
‘I’ve never had a player ask for time off on Valentine’s Day – never heard that anywhere to be honest,’ says manager Lee Bradbury. ‘What would I do I’m not sure I’d be happy about it!’
Unromantic: Andy Griffin is not a player who will be doing anything for Valentine's Day, according to McAnuff
And the love won’t really be felt at Reading’s game with Derby, either.
‘Romance Not much here,’ says midfielder Jobi McAnuff. He will marry Jolene, his girlfriend, in the summer, but February 14 holds no special significance for him. ‘Her maybe,’ he says. ‘But I won’t fall for that.
‘I’m not a great one for Valentine’s Day. I don’t think footballers in general are the most romantic of men out there. I think Valentine’s Day is something a woman invented one year and the others are happy to go along with it.
‘Our team don’t have many great romantics. Andy Griffin, Adam Federici and Kaspars Gorkss are possibly the least romantic people to have lived.
‘Ian Harte is a bit of a romantic. And Mathieu Manset – he is French so it goes with the territory.
King of Harte: Ian Harte is a romantic
‘But Valentine’s Day doesn’t really bother me. I think a lot of guys use it as a day to get themselves out of jail by giving the woman in their life a treat.’