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Friday
Oct282011

Kids. You got to love them

BY CARL PALMER / @CPalmer_LA

Many times over the years since my sons were born (They are now 21 and 19, by the way), I have been accused of brainwashing my children. I never deny it. What sort of father could put up with the ‘viper in my bosom’ scenario of having a Spurs fan in the family? It unfortunately happened to an aunt of mine...we still weep for her.

What is he going on about? I can already here you saying. He is meant to be relaying an interesting and hopefully amusing story about his first visit to Highbury. That bit is quite quick. Arsenal v Liverpool,1975 and we won 2 – 0. I can’t remember much more about it, apart from there being a huge crowd and meeting my dad’s mates in a pub called the White House. I think it’s called Paddy McGinties Goats Arms now or something similar.

Let me give you some background about myself. I come from an area of London called Stoke Newington. Sounds quaint doesn’t it? Let me tell you it isn’t. Stokie as its inhabitants know it, is slam bang in the middle of Hackney, Tottenham and Islington. None of which are the most salubrious of manors, especially in the seventies when I was growing up.

The nature of its geography also meant that Stokie was almost split 50:50 between Arsenal and Spurs fans. This happened to include my own family. So it was up to the father (sorry to be sexist, but that’s the way it was) to lead his children either down the path of righteousness, or down the other end of the Seven Sisters Road to sin.

Jump forward to August 29th 1998 and Arsenal are entertaining Charlton Athletic. All is mayhem in my house. Today’s the big day. The boys are going to their first Arsenal game together. Daniel, the eldest at age 8, had already visited the hallowed halls of the Home of Football for Paul Merson’s Testimonial...or as he afterwards informed his classmates Paul Merson’s testicles. But the youngest is making his debut.

So we are off. First is the journey. At the time we lived In Kingston which is South West of London. On the way we meet my brother-in-law, another avid Gooner who was himself taking his kids to the match, before jumping on the train to Vauxhall. From there it’s the Victoria Line up to Highbury and Islington and within 55 minutes we’re all standing outside the Highbury Barn. The boys are wearing their new Arsenal shirts just soaking up the atmosphere; the noise, the smells, while my mates spoil them rotten.

So much for their mother pleading with me not to feed them crap all day. Or maybe I just heard her say “please fill my little darlings with Coke, sweets, chips and anything else they want, especially if it looks like it has come from a dodgy vendor.” Well that’s exactly what I did...

2 o’clock comes and we make our way down to The Gunners where I have to see some old friends. As usual the pub and the road outside are rammed solid. The kids see the North Bank and they start nagging, like kids do, about going inside. The youngest wants to use the toilet so I take him into the Gunners (this was pre-bouncer days). As we take two steps into the place it erupts:

 “My old man said be a Tottenham fan,

“I said ***** Off, Bollocks you’re a *****. You’re a *****.”

Great. I look down and I see the look of delight on this cherub faced 6-year-old. He asks me “Dad can you hear what they’re singing?”

We decide to go into the ground after this episode, so we head to the North Bank. Our seats are quite near the back. We trudge up to the top of the stand, turn around and look down on the immaculate pitch. The sun is shining, the atmosphere is building and I have my sons by my side. “Today I am a man,” I remember thinking to myself. I must admit I had, had a few beers so was a little emotional!

The game itself is a bit of a letdown. 0-0 and we were lucky to get that. Petit is sent off for two yellow cards and one of those for arguing with the ref. Silly Sod. But we don’t lose and the boys are well and truly blooded in The Arsenal way.

The way home was uneventful, although I did drag them into another couple of pubs to meet cronies from my youth. (I’m not really a bad father...I just don’t get out much) Finally we get back to the family home.

My wife is standing by the door worried in case I have taken her little angels into the dark underbelly of North London (which I have). “Did you enjoy yourself?” She asks the eldest.

Of course he goes into great detail about how everyone sang “The referee’s a wanker.” The relayed information provokes look of disgust number one. Then she asks the youngest about his day. And you guessed it, he answers: “Mum they sang this song about a Tottenham Fan...”

I won’t tell you what happened after that...

Although we have been to see Arsenal play quite a few times home and away since then, and continued to do so right up until we moved to Los Angeles, two things have always stood out to my sons about that first game. A song about the referee and a song about a Tottenham fan.

Kids. You got to love them.

Reader Comments (2)

Lovely story. Thanks

October 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGf60

Haa haa...made me chuckle; llooking forward to taking my 6 year old, i shall avoid the toilets ;)

November 1, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterzak
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