“When I was a child I spoke as a child I understood as a child I thought as a child; but when I became a man I put away childish things.”
No I didn’t. The one thing that has stayed with from the age of four or five is my love of football which, when you analyse it, is a pretty childish pursuit.
Back then, I had to rely on my dad to take me. We were bipartisan in our support, going to Old Tafford one week and Maine Road the next. Away games were not an option. We didn’t own a car or have the money to take the train or coach.
It was in the days when you stood up to watch and dad had to sit me on his shoulders so that I could when I was young. As I got older, I would push my way to the front with the other lads. Football grounds had their own particular aroma then — a mixture of beer fumes, cigarette smoke, fried onions and flatulence. Oh how things have changed, as we discovered today.
My dad was 80 on Tuesday and we had planned to take him out for Sunday lunch when by chance I was contacted by a colleague to say that he had a couple of seats for the game with Newcastle and was I interested. It was Mrs P who had the bright idea to take my dad. “He’s much rather go to Old Trafford than sit in a pub.
And no, the symbolism wasn’t lost on me. Dad used to take me as a boy. Now it was my duty to take him. Now, I may have been a little slow on the uptake as far as the word ‘executive’ on the piece of plastic that was on our ‘ticket’ but as we approached the E4 entrance, there was a security woman blocking the way with a chrome and thick rope barriers you normally asociate with banks.
Then on the door were not the usual high-vis jacketed stewards, but two young men in suits with some sort of barcode reader to zap the plastic. We entered the vestibule. No steel and concrete minimalism here, but marble and chrome and a bank of lifts that whisked us to the fifth floor.
There we were met by more flunkeys, one of whom put a paper band round our wrists stating that we were “Lounge/Sport Bar Executive Members.” We were handed a complimentary programme each (damn! I’d already bought one) and shown into a pleasant lounge area with a large bar in the middle.
I was just drawing breath to ask dad what he wanted when one of the many waiters approached us to say that it would be his pleasure to take our order and deliver it to us if we might indicate where we would be. As promised, a pint of Tetley’s and a coffee arrived and £4.40 didn’t feel too steep under the circs.
We were just wondering how we got from the lounge to our seats when a bloke with a mic announced that they had experienced a few problems getting people to their seats in time for kick-off, so would we all make our way to them. (They are in one of the new filled-in corners and presumably people are still getting used to the system.)
And the seats weren’t any old seats either. No hard plastic here, but cushioned comfort. Dad loved it, not least the result, though it should have been many more. Then I took him home, thinking duty done. And wouldn’t it be great to do it again.