It’s an abysmal Tuesday towards the end of October 2014 and as I do regularly, I am bamboozled into taking my now taller and more handsome than me, teenage son to the obligatory Blackpool FC vs Derby County FC away game, evening kick off. It wasn’t until the night before that the weatherman alerted me to the fact that hurricane Gonzalo was due to batter the west coast of England the same afternoon. There are just three of us going, which involved skipping work and school early.
The plan is when we get to our destination we will be heading to the beach and have fish and chips which makes a change from a potentially deadly burger van, then heading to the ground stupidly early as always.
The lads love away trips. Sometimes we have a full car; other times it’s the dream team of just me and the lad. I can take or leave the actual game of football, but there will always be a fond place in my heart for the pre and post match banter on those long (Brighton) and very slow (Blackpool) journeys, where there is nothing to do but accept take the constant piss-take of friends, the driver you’re overtaking and the one who’s over taking you. Number plates crop up during the road trip regularly: the illegally spaced ones and the non-modified ones with simple and often childish meanings. Any number plate ending in CUM, BUM, LOL, VOM, BAP will always bring a round of raucous laughter throughout the car. The Blackpool road trip was no exception.
The Inbetweeners’ television series has a lot to answer for. ‘Bus Wankers’ for starters. There have been many a journey where one of the lads has shouted to the queuing public and I’ve prayed the traffic lights didn’t change for fear of being reprimanded, scream out: or even worse. The journey starts with ‘shotgun’ for dibs on the front seat, control of the car stereo volume and iPhone charger.
When I’m listening to the lads’ character assassination of other parents for their looks, mannerisms, I often wonder what they say about me. As the nominated driver you get to know all the mindless and meaningless gossip in the world, who the current MILFs are, the comings and goings of recent parties who got drunk, vomited, who copped of with whom (quite insightful at times). Sometimes, I wonder whether the passengers even realise I am in the car and listening.
But most of all, I like the company of my son and his mates, most of whom I have known since taking boy wonder to primary school. I feel honoured that they like being with me, and I like seeing my son holding his own with men 20 or 30 years his senior; laughing with them, arguing with them, with me secretly praying nothing kicks off which means I will to have to intervene. Nothing has to date, but I think that’s down to luck, more than fortune.
The boy I used to know with his cherubic face, his sun kissed blonde mop is now almost a man, he stands a good inch taller than me and is funny to be with and have adult and childish conversations with and I am definitely looking forward to hanging out with him in the future, going for a pint after the match. The match itself, which I have to say is a bit of an anticlimax, whatever the score after the obligatory in-car banter from the previous four hours.
The Blackpool road trip was no different to any other away game. It had it’s share of uncontrollable laughter; arguing, offensive chanting and a victory. At the point of writing, this blog, DCFC, are top of the league. We arrived home exhausted and at 2.30am. I had to be in work for 8.30am and was not amused to be informed the lads had a free period, so could have a lie in!
There are a number of books out there which chronicle stories about fathers and sons living their lives through the lens of football; I have to say they tend to be full of melancholy.
You have Nick Hornby, writing in Fever Pitch, about being taken to watch Arsenal by his uninterested father, after his parents ad separated; Gary Imlach’s memoir, My Father and Other Working Class Heroes,’ describing on the bits about his dad that he was not aware of, a professional player; Duncan Hamilton’s, The Footballer Who Could Fly, with it’s line about the author’s father: “Without football, we were strangers under a shared roof. With it, we were father and son.”
All these books describe how football becomes an emotional prism for those men who like the game because the football stadium is a place where emotions are expressed freely and without constraint. The only similarity for me is our mantra: ‘What goes at the match, stays at the match’; the emotional prism is the hours spent getting to know those well guarded secrets about my son, and his hidden life, that I don’t see, which I feel honoured to become privy to. None of which I am prepared to shared with you. What goes on the road trip, stays on the road trip!