The most important change bar none. On the 20th of September 2014 my life took on a whole new dimension, I became a proud father. I still remember it like it was only a couple of weeks ago. I received a shout from the (now ex) wife that “eh I think the babies coming” around 9.30 am which unfortunately ruled out the days visit of Ross County to Pittodrie.(Funnily enough the day I was told of the pregnancy was also on the day of the Dons playing a Highland team in Caley Thistle) The whole rigmarole of timing contractions went on all day, resorting to live text on BBC to find out about the Dons 3-0 win as I wasn’t allowed the radio on as she couldn’t hear her film. Pretty much as proceedings were coming to a climax down Merkland Road East it was just kicking off in Oldmeldrum. As we set off for the maternity ward, I remember passing all the supporters busses heading towards us, obviously full of happy faces and mostly likely surprised faces as they had witnessed a rare goal from David Goodwillie. Quite the opposite of what was sitting next to me. A grump with a face like fizz constantly getting on at me for laughing at Stuart and Tam on the radio “glad you find things fucking funny you arsehole” and constantly accusing me of deliberately hitting bumps in the road. Fast forward to 20.52 via even more moaning at me, I heard those words that I told people I wasn’t bothered about. The words that I secretly always wanted to hear “it’s a boy”. I never did want a girl. A better result than the 3-0 four hours prior.
Throughout his infant years I never deliberately forced fitba on him. He had a football, a rugby ball, a bike, etc. He gravitated towards the round ball and its all he wants to play with these days. Now looking back, maybe I did to an extent without even realising. Dons baby grows, Dons teddies and a lot of Angus the Bull garb. He could also pick out a Dons badge at a very young age. This massively down to me regularly wearing strips and polos or whatever so he always saw it. We also started a game where he ran into the shop with the first stop being the paper rack. He picks up the Evening Express and shouts “yay its Aberdeen” when they are on the back. This game still goes on to this day and never gets old. To be noted he does also pick out “stinky r*****s” badges and boos them too. Proud. What I never forced on him was watching football. If I was watching a game on the TV and he wanted Shaun the Sheep, The Simpsons or bizarrely the Chase I would switch over. But things took a drastic change one Friday night last April 18. He uncharacteristically got up during the night and came down to the living room where I was watching Hannover beat Werder Bremen 2-1. With the home team in red his first question was “is that Aberdeen?”. A few typical youngster comments followed “wow, that’s a massive kick”, “he hurt his knee”, “look at the fire” (flares), “there is number four”. He was taking interest in what he was watching. Then he uttered the words “Daddy, can I come to the football with you?”. I had been waiting for this day for three and a half years. After my excitement died down a bit and I got him back to his bed I tried to work out where we could get a game the following day. The Dons were away to Hearts so that was a no go. I then thought about the Locos just for locality, but they were away. Cove R*****s on the other hand who were still living their gypsy existence were at “home” to Clachnacuddin at Harlaw Park. Sorted. But then later that night from out of the blue I got a text from my mate asking if I fancied a pint on the Saturday evening after his fitba. Obviously having the wee man prevented it but I asked where and when was his football. Now part of the Colony Park Juniors management he was at home to Stonehaven. Next door to Harlaw. The plan was watch most of the Colony v The Hive game then head across the road for some HFL action. The latter never materialised as Jnr enjoyed the Juniors too much. And why not, six goals, a sending of for an elbow, a kick about at half time and juice and a sweetie. Although the journey home was short he was clearly excited and kept talking about the game. Good start to his live football career. As I was to go offshore on the following Wednesday it couldn’t be rapidly followed up to see if his enjoyment was a one off.
On my return we drove past Colony Park whilst in Inverurie and from the back seat he piped up “remember the football?”. I asked if he wanted to go again. To which he affirmatively answered. I checked one of my random game websites and that very night Stonehaven were set to play Culter in a semi-final at Crombie Park. A second Stonehaven game in succession and a second high-scoring Hive win (5-0) . A very welcome continuation of his new career. As we went to the semi it would be rude not to go to the final and it was a tri-generational affair with my old boy tagging along. The venue Ian Mair Park in Dyce, Banks of Dee v Stonehaven in the North Regional Cup played in glorious sunshine. With the Aberdeen side winning 1-0 the good luck charm for Stonehaven had worn off. No third Hive win, but they put up a good showing v the best team in the area. After this game I realised that he was enjoying going to games. His “apprenticeship” had been served in the diddy leagues. He was clearly becoming a football fan.
Offshore happened again so our next game would have to wait until pre-season for the grand opening of Balmoral Stadium when the Dons were the guests of the now non-vagabond Cove R******s. It was also a good test to see how the wee man got on with a bigger crowd but more importantly get his first Dons game. But a random curve ball was thrown in by the wee dude. The day prior to the Cove game we headed to Dundee to visit the Discovery and the Unicorn. After the Discovery to my surprise I heard these words “I want to watch football”. During the week I had looked up pre-season friendlies in the area in case of this scenario and Dundee Violet v Lochee United was stored in the brain. So instead of the Unicorn we found ourselves at Glenesk Park watching a gelatinous ex Scotland international in Spanish Costa like weather. That man? Gary Kenneth, who had clearly been on the strict diet of pies and chips and more pies and more chips with a side of pie and chips. His Lochee side cruised to a 4-1 victory with ease. Twenty-four hours later Balmoral awaited. He was away to lose his Dons virginity. Sixty-seven minutes and it was over. He broke his Aberdeen duck with an abandonment. In a way it was a great start to his Dons viewing as it’s a good story to tell his mates the future. Probably not so good for ex red Jordan Brown after an assault from big Andy Considine put the kybosh on the game.
Since then football has become part and parcel of a weekend with him and we tie it in with sightseeing and lunch, it’s a proper day out. Its father-son bonding time. Since Colony Park he has graced twenty- five other grounds with his presence with his first foreign stadium ticked off – Croft Park of Blyth Spartans. More importantly in amongst these games he has gained his first Pittodrie experience when Motherwell were the visitors and we took all three points via a rare James Wilson goal. He met Donny and Si complete with photos and a lot more importantly met his hero Angus the Bull. I think I loved it as much as he did seeing his elated face. His photo with Angus takes pride of place framed in my living room. On top of that he has also been away to Rugby Park for his first Dons away game where we left with Dick Turpin masks on after stealing a win with a late Lewis Ferguson free kick. Subjecting the poor kid to that is easily the closest I have come to child cruelty since he was born. He has done well for lacking in years on the planet. I hadn’t been to one game at his age. He has over a quarter of a century of grounds under his belt, over thirteen districts of Scotland and one in England. Northern Ireland and the Republic await him in two weeks too. All this in seventeen months If he carries on at this rate by the time he is my age he could have accumulated six hundred and forty two grounds. Challenge is on mate! I have written about my own personal quests and the joy they have brought before, the already completed Highland League and the ongoing Scottish top forty and every team to win the Scottish Junior Cup in my life. That explains why Cove, Morton, Killie, Tayport, Camelon and Whitburn, Shotts Bon Accord etc are on his list.
I used to almost always do these trips myself but now I have a wee companion and it’s made my hobby even better. A new dimension has been brought into my ground collecting. It’s a day out rather than down and back on my own with only Richard Gordon and his cronies to listen too. It’s the indescribably essential father son bonding time that due to my job and personal circumstances is more important than anything as I have less time than most to do this. I can count myself lucky he has taken a shine to what his old boy gets up to. As selfish as it sounds I was worried he would not get into football. For example, he could have followed in his Grandas and best mate’s footsteps and took up bloody peanut hugging. But as it turns out I had nothing to worry about as he is his father’s son. That is why I write this, to share my pride and nothing else. Football brings together all my favourite things travel, culture, beer and now my most favourite and treasured thing has been added, my son and for that I feel like for once fortune was on my side. When I was told “it’s a boy” this is exactly what I had hoped for.. Football makes me happy but football plus him make is a whole different ball game altogether. The best change to my own football watching I could have asked for. I look forward to heading to the likes of Arbroath Vics, Dundalk, Islavale, Lyon, Bo’ness United, Dungannon, Cumnock this season and there’s nobody I want to do it with more. I have a few years yet to nail these lists and start others before he tells me he’s wanting to go to the fitba with his pals. So, for now, roll on getting home from this inconvenience called work so we can get the ball rolling again.