Sunday, December 11, 2016

Me and my Dad at Deepdale, 1972 - 2016

The crowd around Deepdale was excitable for the derby game, boisterous rather than violent, beer had been drunk, the police were very much in evidence. After an incident where rowdy fans blocked the view when they should have been more considerate, family duties being what they are, the father and son moved to a safer spot for a better view. The role of protector requires wisdom, experience, but more than anything a firm desire to make this experience a treasured one, placing comfort and enjoyment of the match ahead of a desire to bounce around with the lads.

My Dad could have written that about taking the 6 year old me to Deepdale for Preston North End v Burnley in April 1973, my first ever match. As it is, I'm writing today after taking him, aged 72, to see the Rovers. We missed the first goal, due to boozy young lads blocking the gangway, so moved, just as we shifted to the front in 1973 when North End fans flooded onto the pitch to celebrate the goal that ultimately kept them up (pictured).

We've shared so many memories of watching football together over the years - there's a link here about my 20 strongest football memories - but as Rovers have got worse, and as Dad's got older, we've been to fewer games together.

Before the game Dad explained to his North End supporting pals that we used to come to Deepdale, but I chose Rovers. I shuffled from foot to foot as I would being introduced to a girl I used to go out with in my school days. Not shame at having caused hurt, or embarrassment, just a shrug and a look as if to say 'it's not you, it's me'. That was then, and this is now.

Running my Dad through the unrecognisable Rovers team yesterday I quoted Jim Wilkinson's description of Jason Lowe and Corry Evans:

They are the generic, faceless, run-around-a-lot but contribute-little, jobbing 21st century huffers and puffers who will leave no indelible mark whatsoever on the memory save for the pub-quiz moments when they contrived to score their once/twice a decade goals. 

Keep your eyes on Graham though, he's a poacher, a cut above, I said. The ball can stick to Emnes' feet if he gets the chance, Williams is a decent defender. Both our centre halves are playing out of position, Charlie Mulgrew's getting better, I hope he stays fit, I said. Liam Feeney wouldn't have got in the Rovers Full Members Cup Final side we watched lift the trophy in 1987, let alone the Wrexham team we saw draw with Roma in 1984.

We know how it worked out. Rovers are a team with goals in them, but are a couple of players short and lack a proper game plan.

Before the game all the songs were about Burnley, obsessively, defiantly so. As if to say to Preston, we don't care about you. "What do this lot think of having an ex-Burnley manager in charge?" my Dad asked.

At the final whistle, with him long gone back to meet his lift back to Lancaster and me reunited with my teenage lads, I saw the response to Owen Coyle as he made an attempt to applaud the travelling fans. Put it this way, it's not language I'd use in front of my Dad.

No comments: