A mid-week cup game provides some much needed stress relief from busy times at work. I perhaps wouldn't normally go to one of these games, as we are playing a team from a lower division, but the new season is still novel so I decided to go along. If the game was going to be dull, I could at least indulge in some day-dreaming in the fresh air.
Outside the ground I'm rewarded with my first Robert Plant spot of the season, he's alone, which is unusual, and looks a little tired. As I make my way to my seat, my imagination already has me invited to play the spoons on RP's new solo project. I have to decline. I've already accepted an offer to work with Kevin Rowland on a upcoming concept musical about the rise of snooker during the cold war years.
Reality beckons and I sit down.
The usual crowd who surround me are absent, not bothering to attend, and instead I'm engulfed by several families of three and four. Most of the kids are about seven or eight which is fine. The family to my left have two twin boys of about four years old, having their debut match. My heart sinks. Four is too young for football.
I can imagine Dad has been waiting for this day since the sprogs popped. Finally, and wrongly, deciding that tonight was the night.
They spend the first five minutes completely cowed by the proximity and noise of the crowd. Eyes like saucers on sticks. Mum and Dad are stealing proud glances at each others, as the boys join the applause for the teams running onto the pitch. Five minutes later Dad is desperately trying to ignore them (it's the only game he's been allowed to attend in four years!), and shooting the Mrs pleading 'sort this out' glances, as one of the little charmers is stuck upside-down in his seat, and the other has managed to climb onto the roof of the stand and is being chased by fluorescent-jacketed stewards with syringes full of Ritalin.
Order is eventually restored, but the first half has been dull and the monsters are just squirming and looking around everywhere, except of course for the bit of grass where the game is being played.
Half-time arrives and Mum takes one of the boys out to the concessions and to the toilet. The other elects to stay with Dad because he 'doesn't want to go'. As the players and officials run back on for the second half, he, inevitably, changes his mind. Dad, blood pressure up a few notches, has to take him.
I notice the substitution board is up and the public address crackle.
"Substitution for Wolves. Number 35 Elliot Bennett is replaced by The Child- Catcher off Chitty Chitty Bang Bang"
Yessss! All the parents grab their offspring, and run for the exits.
The whistle for the second half snaps me back to the here and now.
I'm not one for laughing at others misfortune (by which I mean I absolutely am) but it takes Dad about five minutes to sort junior out and return to his seat. In that time our team scores their only two goals of the game. As he settles he looks fit to bust and I can't wipe the smile off me face. Around fifteen minutes later, he's had enough and drags his tribe out. No doubt tomorrow he'll be regaling anyone who'll listen about the magic of 'our boys first match'.
I was able to enjoy the rest of the game in relative peace, and was rather amused by a young lad of about seven behind me, who was learning how to be a proper supporter and had just mastered the 'shouting occasionally' skill.
"Come on Wuvs!", he would shout.
"Wolves" his Dad would hiss.
"Come on Wuvs!"
I rather think his Dad had it wrong. The kid, obviously a future RADA student, was trying to shout "Come on Luvs!"
I think that could catch on, and I'm going to shout it from now on. At least until I get my face remodelled by other supporters.
"Come on Luvs!" I shall cry, "Break a leg!"
Well perhaps not 'break a leg'.