Way back in 1977 my Dad took me to my first football match and it proved to be both a significant and a life-influencing event. At the time I wasn’t sure which team I was supporting but I know that Everton beat Arsenal at Goodison Park and that we went with my uncle George and my cousin Ian; who by this time had committed himself to supporting Arsenal after the double-clinching Cup Final victory of 1971, which was sadly before my time.
It would take me a couple more years and defeat in two cup finals in a matter of days in 1980 to fully commit to the Arsenal cause; I could never be accused of being a glory hunter! If I had been, I would have chosen a lot more wisely than a team that lost the FA Cup Final to Second Division West Ham on the Saturday and then lost on penalties to Valencia in the Cup Winners Cup Final four days later!
In the meantime our family had moved to Rotterdam and my initial serious football-supporting years were dedicated to Feyenoord, I truly relished my trips to De Kuip with my Dad. Then upon returning to the UK and living in Hertfordshire, despite the commitment of Saturday school, my Dad worked in as many trips to Highbury, White Hart Lane, Stamford Bridge, Loftus Road, the now sadly gone Plough Lane, Vicarage Road and Kenilworth Road for Our Kid and me as we could possibly manage; it didn’t even really matter who was playing as long as there was a game on that we could watch.
When we returned to the Wirral my passion for the Arsenal continued, but having being denied fortnightly live football for a number of years, I had no hesitation in taking up a season ticket at Anfield for a couple of seasons; my excuse remains that doing so ensured attendance at THAT match on the 26th of May 1989! Not content with turning up at Anfield to support whoever Liverpool were playing, I was also a fairly regular visitor to Goodison Park to support my avowed second team; and the three of us became staunch followers of the mighty Tranmere Rovers, just as they started upon a scarcely credible upward trajectory that featured days out at Wembley and a rise from fourth to second tier in four seasons.
For me the love for the game has never been just about supporting my team(s); it has always been much deeper and encompassed way more than that. The obsession that I developed in those early years was for the game in general and everything that was associated with it. For me it isn’t just about whether my team wins or loses, although take one look at my face after a match and you will know instantly how Arsenal got on!
I realised long ago that I am a lost cause; it isn’t just going to Arsenal matches (and as many as possible!), that is just the tip of the iceberg; I spend a quite frankly ridiculous amount of time watching, reading, talking about, thinking and rethinking football, its history, nostalgia, formations, tactics, grounds I have visited, grounds I am going to visit, historic matches, kits, boots, ball, great teams, great players….. the list goes on and on.
After a lot of discussion with and encouragement from my darling wife, who is unbelievably tolerant and understanding of all this; it seemed like the only way to start to deal with this obsession was to start a blog and to get this stuff, that consumes so much of my time and my focus, out there, to mentally unload it and to try and make some sense of it all. I would try and kid myself that this would create space within my thoughts and focus for more important and constructive things, but I know myself way better than that and know that is never going to happen!