Friday, 10 April 2009
The Story of an Upton Park Initiation (Marty's Son's Story)
As Mark Noble lined up his corner early in the second half last Saturday I said to my son. “Watch this........... James Tomkins....... header in the top right hand corner". It was the end of a story that started with “the great escape” and brought my son back into the fold. I used to stand on the weatherbeaten terraces back in the seventies, but this was my boy’s first match, and he was in a box, as the guest of a former player; how times change!
For him it was a day of firsts. First time on a train, first time on a tube and first time at the Boleyn. It felt like my first time at UP as well, so different was the ground from when I used to go regularly, We were very well looked after, three course meal, drinks, lap dancers.... no sorry, they didn't turn up; a bit different from the old days, first through the turnstiles and run for the best spot, packed lunch and read the programme from cover to cover.
I worry about the future, the crowd seemed to be almost entirely made up of middle aged men, a bit like the Conservative party and the blue rinse brigade, you wonder whether there will be much support left in a few years time! The corner of the BM lower next to what used to be the chicken run tried valiantly to get "Franco Zola's c&b army going" but it met with general apathy. We tried for a while and the corporate crowd seemed more vociferous than the locals, but you feel a bit of a lemon when the general conversation doesn't get much brighter than "Alright Bruv, that wind's a bit chilly innit?" What happened to the banter? The ground's lovely and comfortable and all that, but the atmosphere and the chat were as big a part of the day out as the match for me when I used to go regularly.
But last Saturday wasn’t about all our yesterdays. It was about a young Spanish hammer feeling the claret and blue sap rise in him as we watched the green shoots of another claret and blue renaissance. My lad loved it. "What are they singing Dad?" he said after one brutal challenge. "That'd be 'You dirty northern bastard' son" "Why are they singing that Dad?" Well that's..........because he's a.............. ;) but best not tell your Mum!".
He had put the visit to the Boleyn at risk with an April fools stink bomb that caused the evacuation of half the school, small children in tears and the headmistress on the phone to me. In the end all it did was increase his street cred. and elevate him to legend status with year 5 boys. And as James Tomkins header hit the back of the net, my credibility as a cool Dad was preserved for a few more precious months. We jumped and punched the air as one.....father and son.........claret and blue!