How a Mother managed to trick her five-year-son into switching allegiances from Liverpool to Everton.
“Father Christmas doesn’t deliver to Liverpudlians.” My mum’s matter-of-fact declaration, delivered to my five-year-old self on a cold December evening thirty years ago has been running through my mind of late.
My own son’s interest in the beautiful game is beginning to build and it won’t be long before he starts casting his eyes across the array of teams vying for his lifelong support. And so I find myself asking the same question again and again: should I do to him, what my parents did to me?
The whole Father Christmas strategy represented my mum’s last ditch attempt to wrest me away from the claws of Liverpool FC.
Like my son is today, I was a young lad increasingly forming my own opinions of the world around me, one of which had been the recent decision to fall in with the red half of the city.
Other lads I knew followed the club and I liked the colour red, so it seemed a perfect fit. And yet to my family, a cabal of ardent Evertonians, it amounted to little more than heresy.
For months they had sought to undermine my tentative attachment to Liverpool with entreaties to family loyalty, bribes of chocolate and Panini stickers and the constant highlighting of any inconsistencies in their form. But it was to no avail, the more they pushed, the more I dug in.
Fearful that my attachment was strengthening to the point where it would soon be cemented for life my mum took this last roll of the dice.
And faced with this new information, what five-year-old wouldn’t switch allegiances?
On the morning of the 25th I awoke to see the heap of presents at the end of my bed and felt not excitement but relief. I had been forgiven for my earlier transgressions and my mum’s timely intervention had saved me from a lifetime of miserable Christmases.
Much later I of course learned that all this was all a lie. Not only did Father Christmas hold no footballing prejudices he was also a fictitious construct. From that point on the only morbidly obese, bearded, alcoholic I’d see at Christmas would be my Uncle Peter.
But by the time I’d realised their deceit it was too late. My attachment to Everton had become entrenched. The dye had been cast and I was stuck with them, come hell or Mike Walker.
But by the time I’d realised their deceit it was too late. My attachment to Everton had become entrenched, the affiliation coinciding with an upsurge in my interest in the game and cemented by those all important first experiences of live games at Goodison. The dye had been cast and I was stuck with them, come hell or Mike Walker.
It might have been horribly manipulative but I can understand why my mum did it. Having a redshite under her roof would have been a problem. In a family dominated by Blues my allegiance to the dark side would have upset our domestic harmony. So what she did came from a good place, even if it was ethically questionable.
But with my son the situation is different. Unlike mine, his family is less dominated by Blues. Evertonians still feature but their supremacy has been diluted by the presence of one West Ham supporter and a significant proportion of family members who couldn’t care less. We also live in the footballing vacuum of East Sussex, meaning that the whole atmosphere is less intense too.
And so in theory his future choice of club should be less of an issue. But although I’ve tried picturing him as a fan of other clubs, on each occasion I just feel a sense of mild revulsion, or in the case of Liverpool horrifying disgust.
In my partisan heart I still want him to embrace Everton, with all the misery, frustration and bitterness that this brings. It’s what any good father wants for his child after all.
And yet to convert him to the faithful is not going to be an easy task. Growing up in Liverpool there was only ever one of two choices to make. You might get the odd, and I mean very odd lad who opted to support Man U or even Tranmere Rovers, but these were rare exceptions.
By contrast, all the lads around where I live now are drawn to the top flight and in particular the Big Four (I’ll very kindly include Liverpool in this even though they don’t really finish in the top four anymore). This means that whereas my mum was battling for attention against one team, at best I’m up against several.
And because of our unusual approach to consistent football and general shunning of the conventional definitions of success, Everton are also much more of a marginal presence down South than they are in Liverpool (and by marginal I mean non-existent).
To aid my cause I’ve already bought my lad more team merchandise than the average Newcastle fan gets through in a week but will this and a bit of gentle persuasion be enough? I worry that it won’t.
I can see a day in the not too distant future when I’ll have to pull him to one side and employ the same kind of underhand trick that my mum used to such powerful effect on me thirty years ago.
And if the unthinkable happens and he somehow perseveres, showing more resolve at that age than I did? Then I suppose that the only silver lining is that at least I’ll get to save a few quid on prezzies.
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