Sunday 25 February 2018

Hatters triumph brings some sunshine

Aidan O'Hara

Aidan O'Hara

THERE are so many books about parenting, but there's no manual that references what your reaction should be when your team scores a late goal in a game they're not meant to win – and there is a four-month-old baby in the room.

What you should probably do is a quiet, calm fist-pump of satisfaction which allows you to enjoy a moment of mature reflection that the team you've supported for over 20 years are beating one that is 85 places above them.

If you really want to get the child involved, maybe explain to them why their dad has been mumbling and berating his laptop for over an hour as though the little men running around on it can actually hear him.

What you should not do when Scott Rendell scores is act as though you are among the away end at Carrow Road on Saturday and leap from your sofa with a guttural roar that almost sends the aforementioned laptop flying across the room.

For anybody who doesn't know, four-month-olds can be startled if you blink a little too sharply at them. It doesn't take much to imagine how they react when a man in his early 30s and weighing about 90kg shouts and jumps around like a lunatic.

By bizarre coincidence, most newborns tend to have the same sporting interests of their parents, meaning that mine has already seen a Ryder Cup, an All-Ireland hurling final replay, several rugby and cricket Tests, numerous football matches and, if she stays up late on a Sunday, some American Football too. She probably finds it hard to fathom when the television screen isn't a shade of green.


In 'Fever Pitch', Nick Hornby talks about an irrational fear of one day having a son who supported Tottenham and, if his Arsenal team scored a winner in a North London derby, not being able to suppress his joy which causes his would-be child to burst into tears and him to be, quite rightly, labelled a bad father.

There are some football supporters who say that they don't have a preference which team their children choose to follow once they enjoy the sport. Those people are called liars.

The truth is that, a long time before they consciously know it, the child is bombarded by things that steer them in the direction of a particular club.

Merchandising and advertising being what they are, the Manchester United club shop caters for everything from the home and away jersey to the sleep suit; bibs to quilted jackets; bottles to weaning bowls and, to comfort them on the rare occasions United lose, teddy bears and soothers.

Amazingly, Luton's shipping container-sized club shop also caters for those who want to inflict years of relegations, administrations and play-off defeats onto their children, which is why, on Saturday, most of my child's morning play-time was taken up using the Luton-crested football and teddy bear that were part of a Christmas present from her grandmother.

Not yet able to fit into the babygrow which reads '50pc Mum; 50pc Dad; 100pc Luton', she was instead dressed in the club's usual colours of orange and white, although the omens weren't good when, within an hour, she had vomited and needed changing. The orange socks, however, stayed in place.

Unlike most weeks when it's impossible to even find the result of their game in many newspapers, Luton Town are among the best football stories of the weekend even if, on Saturday, those television stations who bang on about the magic of the cup decided to show Stoke City v Manchester City and, for the 38th consecutive time in the competition, a Manchester United game.


United and City both went through and probably attracted more viewers than Norwich against Luton would have, but the level of apathy was stark by comparison to the scenes in the away end at Carrow Road.

For them, and others following the game online, on Twitter or on radio, the final 10 minutes of tension, disbelief and, eventually, joy reminded them why they started watching football in the first place. It brought them back to swapping stickers in the schoolyard and playing heads and volleys in the street until it was dark.

Luton's most famous supporter, Eric Morecambe, once sang: "Make me happy through the years / Never bring me any tears", which is about as far away from the reality of life supporting an unsuccessful team as it's possible to be. Yet, for the 4,000 at Carrow Road and the thousands of others around the world, Saturday brought a little bit of sunshine.

The hour after the final whistle was spent dancing around the living room with the baby who, mostly thanks to her mother, had made a fine recovery from being startled because of a winning goal in an FA Cup fourth-round game. It was a day the four-month-old won't remember. It was also one her dad probably won't forget.

Irish Independent

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