50 Going On 20: Confessions Of A Happy Man Who Won't Grow Up

Despite society's expectations, my passion for music, clothes and football refuses to dwindle as I near middle age. I can't be the only one.
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Despite society's expectations, my passion for music, clothes and football refuses to dwindle as I near middle age. I can't be the only one.

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"Hi, my name is Phil and I'm 50 going on 20". It sounds like the introduction to an addiction therapy meeting in a dingy church hall, but it's not; it's something (I think) I'm proud of.

The problem with growing up is that you are supposed to 'mature', supposed to 'leave your youth behind'. The problem? I haven't, and sometimes I wonder whether I'm alone. Or am I one of many thousands of teenagers and twentysomethings trapped in a 50 year old man's body, still enjoying their youth, and life, to the full?

I played football; I played in the street. I played in the park. I played for my school team. When I grew up I wanted to play for Leeds United. I wanted to be Alan Clarke. I played for the university. I played Sunday League in both North London and North Leeds.

I was a Punk; I saved up my pocket money and the money I earned from a paper round and a Saturday job at the local greengrocers to buy my punk leather jacket in Leeds' wonderful Victorian market. I spent hard earned cash on 'Never Mind the Bollocks', 'Inflammable Material' and 'The Undertones' as well as countless long forgotten 45rpm and 33rpm masterpieces.

I was a Casual; I spent my student grant and various benefits on extortionately priced Ellesse t-shirts, adidas trainers and pastel coloured Pringle diamond jumpers. My weekends were spent either at Elland Road or at various first, and then unfortunately second, division grounds around the country, clocking up 50+ away grounds ranging from Mansfield to Milan. Travelling with Leeds at that time was a heady cocktail of potential trouble, pride, camaraderie and huge numbers in small towns that simply couldn't cope.

Then I got a job, got married, got a mortgage and had kids. I now own a business (we own www.whichbingo.co.uk and www.freebingo.co.uk) that employs more than a dozen people, has an annual turnover in excess of £1m and I spend my days analysing sales figures, motivating & mentoring staff and planning company strategy. At this point isn't this where one should be settling down? I'm supposed to be a mature, responsible and sensible member of society (which I am), but here's the problem (or as I see it, the great news):

I still play football. I still listen to punk. I still wear decent gear. I still follow the Mighty Leeds United. I may nowadays dine with well-heeled friends in great culinary establishments but I still want to get pissed on a Saturday night.

5-a-side is a twice a week, hourly ritual. I love it and wouldn't miss it for the world. I've seen The Undertones live at least once every year for the last four years - I even follow @mickeyundertone on Twitter. I travelled over to Manchester to see Green Day. My iPad is full of The Clash, The Jam, Ramones and all their ilk and they all regularly get an airing. Ellesse has been replaced by Boss, Pringle by Armani. My Leeds watching is a season ticket in the expensive West Stand rather than standing 'with the lads' on The Lowfields or The Gelderd, and I was there this season at The Galpharm to ecstatically celebrate Billy Sharp's last minute winner with as much fervour as one from yesteryear from Clarke, Currie or Chapman.

I don't want to grow up. That fire in the belly that only occurs when you hear the opening chords of the likes of 'Pretty Vacant', 'Smash it Up' or 'Alternative Ulster' refuses to be dimmed. That frisson of excitement as you approach the away end at 2.30 on a Saturday afternoon is still the drug that I can't kick. 

Am I just a someone who refuses to grow up or are the 'millions like us'?