There are good reasons Sir Patrick Stewart was knighted. Namely, his role as Captain Jean-Luc Picard in the "Star Trek: The Next Generation" television series, his stage acting with the Royal Shakespeare Company and his more recent work as Professor Charles Xavier in the "X-Men" movie franchise. But over at FOXSoccer.com, we especially appreciate his 66-year-and-counting fandom of his local club, Huddersfield Town — as grand an accomplishment as any of the above, in our view.
Ahead of the release of the seventh installment, "X-Men Days of Future Past," we caught up with Sir Patrick Stewart for a chat about soccer, listening to that unmistakably oaky voice wax rhapsodically about his boyhood club. Oh, and a bit about England at the World Cup and his new movie too:
Leander Schaerlaeckens: We hear you’re quite the soccer fan, yes?
Sir Patrick Stewart: "Yes, I’ve been a soccer fan all my life. There nearest big town to where I was brought up is called Huddersfield. It happens to be a town — it should be a city, but it never became a city. It’s actually the biggest town in England. And they have a football club called Huddersfield Town Association Football Club and I was taken to watch them when I was 7 years old by my uncle. And I stood on the terraces with thousands of men in flat caps, all smoking cigarettes. And I loved it. Not so much the flat caps and cigarettes, but the soccer. My loyalty to the club has remained constant through all the vicissitudes of being a supporter — the ups and downs, the disappointments, the highlights. And it was a source of great pleasure to me when several years ago, the club asked me if I would become president of the academy, which is that part of the club where youngsters are given their first experience."
LS: A Dutch countryman of mine, Dean Gorré, played for them for a spell.
Sir Patrick Stewart: "I’ve been a fan of Dutch football for decades. They were, less so these days, at one time the shining light of European football because of their professionalism — and I mean that in the best possible way, not a cynical way — their discipline and the very elegant style of play that they had. Johan Cruyff was one of my heroes."
LS: What do you make of Huddersfield’s season?
Sir Patrick Stewart: "It has been a very contrasting season. This is our second season back in the Championship, having gotten promotion in 2012 and struggled rather last season. We were very lucky; we actually managed to avoid relegation last season in the last 10 minutes of the final game. We began this season very strongly. Our manager, who had been there for some months before, was imposing a very different style of play, for Huddersfield that is. A possession-based style of quick short passes with strong finishing. And it served us very well up until Christmas, and then after Christmas, something, as it does with sports, something went wrong.
Our principle striker and goalscorer, [James] Vaughan, had a succession of injuries and wasn’t available and we struggled. And the struggling became rather serious. Until about three weeks ago when we had an away win at Yeovil [Town] that secured our berth in the Championship for one more season. For me, the sadness of the season was it is the first time in probably 8 or 9 years that I have not actually seen a single game [in person] all season. I have been working in New York and California since July and in that time the entire season has gone by. But I belong to an internet group of overseas fans of Huddersfield Town.
I helped set it up a good many years ago when I was living in Los Angeles and it’s always a delightful thing to find that all around the world, there are people just like you, from the same town that you grew up in, sometimes even knew the same friends that you knew, who support the club. And we tune in to the broadcast every Saturday, wherever we are, and we have a couple of people who still actually live in Huddersfield and they send us brilliant, detailed reports and accounts of games. So I stay in touch. But I’m very hopeful that I will be there at the opening match of the new season in August."
LS: How do you assess England’s chances for the World Cup this summer?
Sir Patrick Stewart: "Ohhh… I have to say, at the risk of sounding unpatriotic, that I am very uneasy about our chances this summer. What I hope is that our manager [Roy Hodgson] becomes adventurous, becomes bold in his choice of a squad. We have some young players in England, who deserve a run-out with the national team, and what better time than a World Cup to do that? Of course, I will be hoping for success but this year I am trying to be pragmatic about our possible chances. Curiously, I shall be in Brazil in two weeks’ time. One of my countries for promoting the new X-Men movie is Brazil. I’m visiting Sao Paulo and I have been promised the possibility of meeting several of the Brazilian national team and possibly even the Brazilian manager. I hope that there will be time in all the craziness of junketing to do that. Because, well, who in the world has not loved Brazilian football — probably Argentina — for the last 30 years?"
LS: Please tell me about your film.
Sir Patrick Stewart: "It is a sequel to all the X-Men movies that have gone before it, that is the first three movies with X-Men and then ‘X-Men: First Class.’ It takes all of the very best elements of those movies, and there were a lot of them, combines them in this film and makes them even better. I think the film is brilliant. I think [director] Bryan Singer has always done marvelous work but this is extraordinary. The story is very gripping; the incidents are startling and dramatic. We’ve got a very, very fine cast, a strong cast, with some surprises included in it. And I also have to add, because it was only screened for me on Monday afternoon, it made me very emotional. There is a lot of very strong feeling gone into this film. And I’m sure the fans will experience that. I’m very excited."