Today is the first time (and I hope not the last) that three generations of my family will be going to The Valley with season tickets.
My son has been a few times before, and he came with my Dad and I, and our wives, for the Hartlepool game, but this is his first game with a season ticket.
In all honesty he is not a great football fan, he doesn't really have much talent when it comes to playing (neither did I) and he doesn't really want to watch it on the tele. We do play FIFA on the PS3 occasionally, but he is even a little indifferent about this.
Back in the 80s football wasn't as welcoming as it is today - terracing and football violence and all that, so I wasn't taken to a live football game until I was ten. My son was first taken when he was four. He didn't really like it much, but I did take him again a couple of weeks later, but his enthusiasm didn't grow so he didn't come again until last season. I brought him to a couple of mid-week games, but I suspect that his interest in that was influenced by the idea of a late night.
By the time the last game of the season came 'round he was very excited about having his birthday party (well the family one anyway) at The Valley. This was a lovely day, and the corporate hospitality was faultless, but the fact that we were there from before 1pm and the celebrations didn't finish until close to 6pm meant that he was bored by the end. He was a little too young, or indifferent, for the trophy celebrations, which was not helped by the players having their back to us and then before the cup came anywhere near the East stand each player welcomed what felt like twenty members of his family on to the pitch.
It was a great day so I'm reluctant to complain, but I have to say that if I'd been asked to plan the trophy presentation event so as to spoil it for the fans I couldn't have done a better job. I know the families have to accept some less than ideal circumstances for having a professional footballer (certainly Christmas is not the same for them as it is for us fans) but I would like to think they are well compensated. There was no need for every member of their family (including what much have been 'extended' family) to walk around the pitch as though they were part of the first team squad. I also felt no satisfaction, not do I think it enhanced my day out to see our goalkeepers bickering with stewards trying to bring someone onto the pitch from the North West Corner.
By the time the League One Trophy got anywhere near the East stand (after all the extended families had had their photo with it on the pitch) There was just Kermorgant and a couple of other players left on the pitch - I think one of those was Solly. I do understand that these players wanted photos with the trophy in front of a packed stadium, but on the whole I think the fans could have witnessed a much better spectacle.
Anyway rant over. for a club like us it is difficult to ever get much experience of arranging these events, and I'd genuinely rather have a fumbled trophy presentation event than not have one at all, and I only remembered this as I was discussing my son getting bored.
So tonight there will be three generations of my family there. It only seems like a few months ago that my Dad lifted me to sit on a freezing crash barrier on the East terrace at my first game. The view was magnificent, but the conditions in which I experienced it were, frankly, terrible. In fact, just thinking about it is making me feel the cold in my backside that comes from sitting of a freezing metal bar for an hour. The Valley is a much, much more family friendly place now, and football is, in my opinion, all the better for it.
For £49 there is little risk of me not getting my money's worth, even if my son decides that he will only come to a handful of games. It secures the seat, and if he is not pressured to come too often I am confident that in due course he will learn to think of The Valley as his second home, just like the rest of us. Interestingly I have lived in eleven different houses since I first visited The Valley. Maybe, on reflection, it is my first home.
Up the Addicks!