I inherited from my father a passionate interest in wine and an almost complete disregard for any sort of competitive team sports. We’ve enjoyed many fine bottles together but have never bonded on the terraces. Needless to say my own sons are avid football fans and in the absence of any paternal motivation have become passionate matrilinear ‘Gooners’ – their Mum’s family hail from Islington and follow the fortunes of Arsenal FC.
Fortunately for them Alfred (13) and William (10) have a kind uncle who is sympathetic to the yearnings of young footy fans. This Christmas Tom managed to procure tickets to see Arsenal play Queens Park Rangers at the Emirates stadium on New Year’s Eve. As this was their first proper visit to their team’s HQ (I had parsimoniously taken them previously to admire the stadium from the outside) they were naturally excited. Suitably clad in a festive haul of red and white regalia we caught the train to London and met up with Uncle Tom for a bite of pre-match lunch.
There were ample photo opportunities on the way into the ground and there was an upbeat atmosphere amongst the gathering Gooners. The boys were happy to oblige the request of a cameraman from Arsenal TV with a rousing cheer of ‘Come on Arsenal’ as we set off to find our seats. These, it turned out, were amongst the best in the house, right on the half-way line behind the press box with a great view of the back of Arsen Wenger’s head.
If truth be told it was a bit of a scrappy game but Arsenal had the best of it and secured a deserving win when Robin Van Persie (who else?) finally found the back of the QPR net in the 60th minute.
At the end of the match we said thanks and goodbye to Tom and wended our way back to the West Country to celebrate the year end suffused in the glow of tribal victory. Who knows I may yet develop a taste for this football malarkey but don’t ask me to explain the Offside Rule or the advantages of a 4-4-2 formation!