Oh how the Barclay love to crow "We support our local team" whenever Liverpool, United, Spurs or Arsenal visit the Carra. But what does it feel like NOT to? Dughall McCormick gives you a little bit of insight into how he's nurtured a love of yellow and green from miles away...
A little pack of teenagers leer across the gap of empty seats looking directly at me and my son. Each of them has both hands in the air; one hand holding 3 fingers aloft, the other making an ‘okay’ hand gesture to signify the 3-0 score line. The roar that greeted the third goal is still echoing around a rejoicing John Smith’s Stadium. There is an additional sense of despair and humiliation in the fact that these opposition fans gloating so joyously are my son’s contemporaries and schoolmates.
I’ve always felt slightly uncomfortable when the Norwich faithful start up with ‘We support our local team!’ at Old Trafford. I’m ok with that as an estranged East Anglian inhabitant of Yorkshire, but what about my son? How does he feel about this? His local team is Huddersfield Town. He is a born and bred Yorkshire lad and yet he is also a fervent Yellow.
I did try. I took him, aged about 2 years old, to a Huddersfield game. They were playing Walsall and Town scored twice within minutes of each other. The crowd were going mad and the little person on my lap looked round at me, tears in his eyes and clearly troubled by the behaviour of the celebrating fans around us, and mouthed the words, “I don’t like football”. We were the only fans to leave the home end and head out of the ground with the team 2-0 up.
Since then, he did come to love football both as a player and a fan. I have to admit, I’ve created his loyalty to NCFC. I don’t apologise for this, I have always seen trips to the football with him as building father-son bonds. What memories we’ve shared together. From depressing visits to the likes of Boundary and Prenton Parks to victories at Old Trafford and White Hart Lane, we’ve been to just about every ground in the top few divisions as loyal City away fans; and of course, we’ll always have Wembley.
There was the time when, after a particularly niggly game at QPR in which Joey Barton got sent off, a QPR fan aggressively crossed the road to unleash a tirade of sweary abuse to me and the boy. When he’d finished I said something along the lines of, “I hope you’re pleased with yourself. Me and my 10 year old son have visited nearly every club in the top divisions and his experience of opposition fans is generally that they are friendly and kind. I think you might have just helped form an opinion in him of QPR that may live on for the rest of his life. Congratulations.” Quite risky this, but it paid off. The guy apologised, shook both our hands and declared, “Dunno what came over me. I’m a dad too…” Speaking of ‘sweary’, there are challenges around that too. I remember sitting on a busy train returning from Bolton when the boy loudly enquired, “Dad, what’s a w****r?” (A word that had been shouted repeatedly at the ref that day). I think the whole carriage was interested in my explanation of that one.
We’ve jet-setted too. The sheer opulence of a return flight to Southampton for the day will not be forgotten in a hurry, especially as the boy got his picture with Wes and Robbie Brady at Southampton airport before the flight back up north. Not too expensive either and certainly quicker and cheaper than getting the train. Our most epic journey to a game though has to be Chelsea away. We left my Mum’s house in the rural west of Ireland at 7.00am and took car, plane, car, train, tube and taxi to arrive breathless at Stamford Bridge at ten past 3. There was a speeding ticket in there somewhere too…
We’ve had our ups and downs. I know that years down the line we’ll be able to look back at all of this together and, as my mind fogs with age and one thrashing at Anfield blends into another (I do remember a draw!), he will be my faithful Statto, reminding me that it was Holty not Howson who banged in the winner or that it was Rudd not Ruddy who tipped that one over. I’d like to think that I’ve given him a wonderful gift but at the same time, I wonder if I’ve also taken something away. He’ll never know what it feels like to head to the game with a gang of his teenage mates like all his friends do and, unless he moves to East Anglia, he’s unlikely to support his local club.
He still always says, “Thanks Dad” whatever the result, whatever the mood. I’m pretty sure he means it.