Jonathan Freedland writes about the joy of discovering football late in life and, in the process, becoming one of those mood-swingy types whose daily happiness depends on how well their team is doing. In his case it’s Arsenal, in Golden Gordon’s it’s Barnstoneworth United. For better or worse, I’ve never really been like that. West Ham have been my club, sort of, since the Hurst-Peters-Moore era, but I’ve only been to see them a couple of times. Back in the days of Jock Stein, I also found time to support Celtic, and I was keen enough on Leeds, circa 1972, to have an aunt make a personalized kit for me. That was in the days when the players wore their names on tabs on their socks — or am I imagining that? I had a Chelsea kit too around the time of Osgood and Hollins, although I went off them in the Nineties when some jobsworth stopped me taking a photo of my sons next to the FA Cup in the Stamford Bridge shop. (We were told we had to queue for the official, computerized team shot: price £25). As it happens, my mum used to have a soft spot for Chelsea too, although that was because their star striker, Bobby Tambling, became a Jehovah’s Witness.
Who else did I follow? Everton, when Harry Catterick was in charge. And I used to get excited about England, too, obviously. But the ordeal of the last World Cup finally put paid to that. And I remember jumping up and down with my boys when Man Utd won the Champions League Final at the last gasp against Bayern Munich. Ernest Hecht, publisher, music lover and Arsenal supporter since the 1930s, took me to the Emirates the other day for the game against West Ham. At first I thought the Hammers might sneak a win, but they ended up being thrashed 5-1. I didn’t mind at all; it was a pretty good game.
In my teens I was quite a hot player. I still turn out for five-a-side on Saturdays, and when I’m fit I’m pretty good. But this business of drifting from team to team seems odd in retrospect. Sometimes I just wish I could be like Gordon.