Football: Passing on the glamour

FAN'S EYE VIEW Nottm Forest
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The Independent Online
MY FRIEND'S eight-year-old son has fixed a plaque to the garden gate. "Man Utd fan lives here," it proclaims.

No one can doubt young Simon's allegiance. As he bangs his plastic football against the green garage door (his father refuses to paint it red and white), he wears the replica shirt that enables him to dream that his name is really Giggs, and that he is slamming the winning goal into the Stretford End goal.

It so reminds me of my early years when I was an avid supporter of Wolves. Of course, I followed the West Midlands giants for the same reason that Simon now follows United. They were the glamour team of the mid-Fifties. Their stars were my heroes. For Beckham, Scholes, Keane, read Williams, Shorthouse, Mullen.

It all seems so familiar, yet there are critical differences and these could spell disaster for the British game. When I was Simon's age, my father, delighted by my emerging love of football, decided to take me to my first match. The long and expensive trip to Wolverhampton was out of the question so I had to settle for the local Second Division outfit, Nottingham Forest. Sometime later, I was taken to another game. Once more, Forest happened to be the local team at home. The 1956-7 season saw Forest challenging for promotion. My father followed the campaign with gathering interest and I was taken to most of the games.

It took a fellow Wolves fan to pose the question: "If Forest are promoted," he said apprehensively, "they will play Wolves. Who will you support when they do?"

"Wolves, of course," I replied brightly, but I knew that I was lying. I had become a Forest fan. None of this is likely to happen to Simon. A fuzzy black and white photograph in the paper, (nothing more than a collection of dots if you looked closely) was as near as I got to seeing a Peter Broadbent goal. Simon watches an Andy Cole strike in long-shot, in close-up, in fast-motion and in slow-motion, from all angles, and all in glorious colour. He hardly ever misses a match.

Should his father decide to treat his son to a real match at Forest, the colour is likely to drain from his cheeks when he rings up to enquire about the cost. In any case, Simon will not want to go. Why should he want to see any game that doesn't involve his beloved United? He would rather his father pour money into the coffers of Old Trafford in return for a United bedspread, T-shirt, poster or mug.

From the age of 11, I was allowed to go to watch Forest with a gang of mates. These were great social events but Simon's more likely course in a few years will be to get in a few cans and invite his friends round to watch United on the box.

There is, however, a nightmare scenario. Maybe Simon and his friends will board one of the coaches organised by the Nottingham branch of the United supporters' club and join the 150,000 crowd watching the Red Devils playing their super league match against Juventus. Meanwhile, back in Nottingham, Forest will be playing Ilkeston Town in the East Midlands semi-professional league.

Wolves performed a wonderful service for me and for football. Their success and their glamour helped to develop my passion for the game. Having done this, they passed me on benignly to my local club. If only the modern Manchester United would do the same.

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