Saturday is sure to be an emotional occasion for me as it will be the first time I take my boy to watch Charlton. For nearly 18 years, following the Addicks has been a lonely affair for me, but as much as I have greatly valued the solitude of having Saturday afternoons all to myself, I've reached a time of my life when I'd love my son to be alongside me. I've been looking forward to this day for the last few months, and I can't tell you how much I hope it ignites something inside of the young lad. My Mum is coming along as well. It is my Mum's father, my dearly-missed Granddad Thomas, who first introduced me to football and I want the connection to continue down my family. My Mum's become well and truly Addicted over the years and typically comes to The Valley with me at least once a season, so I felt it was important that we took him together. History means a lot to me, in this regard.
When my Thomas was born (named after my Granddad), I lost count of the amount of people who warned me not to inflict my love of the Addicks on the boy as it could turn him off football completely! Perhaps some were only half-joking after seeing at close-quarters how I've suffered over the years, but I'll confess that at the time it did rather irritated me as I'm just not that sort of openly jingoistic type who would buy the baby-grows, bed sheets and paint his room red and white before he was old enough to have an opinion. None the less, in hindsight, I suppose it did make me take a very deliberate step backwards from introducing Charlton to him and perhaps football generally. I guess I've assumed he'd pick it up naturally if it's destined to be a part of his life. Now I feel ready to direct him a little...and see if he takes the bait!
In the last year or so he's shown enough interest in playing football to convince me that taking him on Saturday is a gamble worth the effort. I'm not naive, at very nearly 5 years old I know he's still very young and I'm not expecting him to last much more than 20-30 mins before losing interest on this occasion. Furthermore, even if he likes football in the long term, there's no guarantees he'll follow Charlton. I know of many examples where support is not passed down through generations, not least of all my good friend Scott, who is a life-long Gooner whilst his Dad is Spurs. Without shame I'll admit that come Saturday I'll be filling my pockets with sweets galore and I'll ensure his DS is fully charged.
But I know only too well how kids minds work, and sometimes that spark can take a little while to smoulder gently before it begins to burn. Best case scenario for me is that next time I'm readying myself for a game, he asks me whether he can come along.
I can honestly remember the exact moment the flame ignited in me. I'll never forget the moment for as long as I live. My Granddad was babysitting for my sister and me (I'd have been 6-7, I guess) when from my bed I heard what I would later learn to be the theme from Match of the Day. My Dad never followed football, so it wouldn't have be commonplace in our home at the time. I remember creeping out on to the landing, completely mesmerised by the commentary and the noise from the crowd (I can recall it was West Brom V's someone or another as I remember Cyril Regis scored from a penalty - I would forever have a soft spot for him as a result, and I would mimic in the back garden his crafty technique of taking penalties by turning his back to the goal until just before he began his run-up). After a while my Granddad realised I was listening in and let me watch for a short while before packing me off to bed. The rest, as they say, is history.
So I appeal to Sir Chris & Charlton to give my lad a goal to cheer, and please, please don't put in one of 'those' performances! You may have noticed that I'm a sentimental old fool, but despite the numerous low points when I've quite literally drove home alone, tears in my eyes, in the words of Billy Cotton, I've 'lived, laughed, loved and been happy' watching Charlton, and now I want my boy with me.