Stoke City, Passion And Away Days: Thanks For The Memories Dad

It's Father's Day. For football fans, this is the perfect time to say thank you to our dads who gave us the greatest possible gift; a passion for football.
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It's Father's Day. For football fans, this is the perfect time to say thank you to our dads who gave us the greatest possible gift; a passion for football.

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Stoke City, Passion And Away Days: Thanks For The Memories Dad

Growing up as a lad is about the two F’s (steady!!!!)- Father and Football. Always has been and always should be. That’s not to relegate Mum’s to the parental non-league, but the bond between lad and dad, and especially lad and dad who love football, is an integral part of our development.

After all, isn’t one of life’s lessons your father informing you of  the names of the four pubs on the four corners of Brentford’s Griffin Park ground, rather than the values of tidying your room?

That paternal bond is even stronger in the sharp, callous winter of an English football season.

Those who call for a winter break in football can give their heads a wobble, as there’s nowt so character building than going to Leyton Orient on New Year’s Day on a coach with your old man, where the smell of freshly sicked-up Marston’s Pedigree hangs in the air like ‘Big’ Brendan O’Callaghan (Google necessary), and watching us secure three points, in front of a few hundred fellow souls with nothing better to do than go to the arse end of East London on the first day of the year.

And that is probably the longest sentence a middle-aged durr brain from the Six Towns has ever written.

Unlike most nogger fans, I can’t remember my first Stoke game. My first memories of watching us were against Middlesbrough at Vale Park and then having a season ticket in 1977 in the Butler Street Stand. Relegation inevitably soon followed.

I wouldn’t swap my soaking at the Abbey Stadium (1992) and subsequent topless huddling on the coach back with my old fella for any European Cup

So, basically, I was introduced to the Potters after a visit to the Piggery and then being forced to sit in probably the only roofless stand in Britain at that time, and watch us go down. Perhaps instead of now thanking my dad in this article I should be phoning Social Services instead?

But am I grateful that my old man grasped my 8 year old hand all those years ago and walked me to those Victoria Ground turnstiles? Daft, rhetorical question. And isn’t ‘rhetorical’ an ace word?

If you are thinking of being all sentimental and schmaltzy on Fathers Day, then surely a bit of an effort could and should be made to treat that person who first introduced you to your football club. The man who clasped your hand tightly in his, and walked you through the terraced streets to watch your football club.

There is nothing finer than experiencing the lifetime of mainly struggle and heartache watching a typical non-top-four football club with your dad. So shouldn’t we put a bit more effort into selecting Father’s Day gifts this year, and showing our caring-alpha-male side, by actually telling our fathers how much we, gulp, love him and thank him for introducing us to heartache, joy, tears, pain and football grounds all over the country?

Thank the good Lord I support Stoke City.

I wouldn’t swap my soaking at the Abbey Stadium (1992) and subsequent topless huddling on the coach back with my old fella for any European Cup; I wouldn’t swap sliding down the grass bank at Springfield Park, Wigan (1991), for any number of silverware. Because what me and dad have shared is what makes us what we are. And it makes any eventual special moment to be even more special.

No-one can take away the great times we’ve had watching Stoke City. No-one.

The look on dad’s face at the end of the beamback Cardiff Play-Off away game at the Brit in May 2002 meant everything. A craggy, weather-worn and Stoke-weary face that had witnessed the best part of six decades of mediocrity, lit up by a winning goal off someone’s arse. That is football. That is Stoke City. That’s my dad.

No-one can take away the great times we’ve had watching Stoke City. No-one.

Watching Stoke and the morsels of success we’ve had is akin to that rocket-fit blonde in The Place nightclub coming over to you after months of quarter-to-two dances with assorted livestock; It’s when the dj drops the seven minute version of Eric B’s “Paid in full” after listening to Olly Murs, JLS and any other X Factor whopper all night. It’s the diamond in the rough, the needle in the haystack, finding treasure in the trash etc.

4.55pm 11th December 2010: I hate losing more than anyone as I’m mega-competitive. Indeed, read that statement back and even that is competitive – “more than anyone”, how can I substantiate that, eh?

But as I held the hand of my 7 year old lad as we left block 32 in the Britannia Stadium, I had a sneaky look back at the away end at the Brit. Over 2,000 giddy-as-owt Blackpool fans were pouring love on their heroes, as their heroes threw their shirts to them after winning 1-0.

A man who loved nothing more than his family, his sport, and a pint of mild in his hand, whilst listening to any football match that happened to be on the radio

It would have taken the most cold-hearted of Stokies to have begrudged them their victory and celebrations. Indeed, on the day, they fully deserved it. As I looked over to their support, what did I see? I saw ourselves reflected. I saw loyal, passionate support of their club. Their town’s club. And I smiled.

The next morning we took the family to the local church. It was the birthday of my father-in-law, who unfortunately had passed away eighteen months before. John Bradshaw was from Vale stock, but he was a proper, good, kind and gentle man. A man who loved nothing more than his family, his sport, and a pint of mild in his hand, whilst listening to any football match that happened to be on the radio. A man who I have never, ever heard say anything bad about anybody, and whom I’ve never heard anyone say a bad word about.

If Stoke had lost he wouldn’t have a dig at me. He wanted all local clubs to do well. My own dad’s a little different: if Stoke lost he’d mope about on a Saturday night and only really be happy once again the next time we’d won. I suppose I’m like that – indeed, as Vince Lombardi once said, “if sport isn’t about winning, then why do we keep score?”

We have to cherish our families, and we should cherish the path that they’ve chosen for us, be it in life or football

A different generation, my old man and John. A better generation?

Not for me to decide, but as I looked out over the stunning vista of the Staffordshire Moorlands and up to The Roaches, on a cold, clear December Sunday stood by John’s grave, I felt a contentedness to be honest.

Peter Bunn, John Bradshaw, and even Blackpool FC, remind me of the responsibility I have as a parent (and football supporter) to do the right thing. We have to cherish our families, and we should cherish the path that they’ve chosen for us, be it in life or football, and we should simply give eternal thanks that we were taken to watch our football club.

Do you still think that the team benchcoat your dad would love as a present is too expensive? Buy it, just buy it. And then thank him.

Dad’s are ace. Tell yours that he is, yeah?

I just hope that my kids feel the same.

More great articles on Stoke City

Stoke City Abroad: The Massive Highs And Crushing Lows Of Following Stoke In Europe

Stoke City End Of Term Report: A Stand Still Season

Stoke City: When Crouch Scored His Wonder Goal, My House Was Burning Down

Stoke City:  Has The Britannia Bear Pit Gone Soft

Stoke City’s Tony Pulis And The Continuing WoodgateGate Saga

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