IF I have one major disappointment about my time as a dad it’s the fact that none of my four children share my passion for football.

My three sons all had brief flirtations with the beautiful game but, in all honesty, they never amounted to anything of substance.

My only daughter, Hannah, fleetingly raised my hopes when she was about 11, by asking if she could stay up later to watch Match of the Day with me. However, it transpired it was only because she’d overheard me saying I was planning to eat a packet of Pringles while the footy was on.

Jack, our third born, was probably the one who showed the most interest, and was readily persuaded to support my favourite team, Arsenal, but there was always the sense that his heart wasn’t really in it and that he was just trying harder than the others to keep me happy.

Now they’re all grown up, and living away from home, my hopes of finding a football ally will have to rest with my grandchildren. So far, there’s only one of them – three-year-old Chloe - and I’m delighted to say she’s showing early signs of promise.

She came home from nursery to say she’d been playing football and it was lots of fun. “I scored a goal, Gandad!” she announced and went on to demonstrate by dramatically kicking an imaginary ball.

Having decided that she would like to go on playing football at nursery, Ganma suddenly disappeared upstairs, rummaged around under our bed, and reappeared with a red and white Arsenal shirt with the name BARR0N emblazoned on the back.

Chloe tried it on and was as pleased as punch, despite the fact that it came down to her knees. This isn’t surprising because it once belonged to her Uncle Jack who’d got it as a seventh birthday present.

That was nearly 20 years ago but it feels like yesterday, and seeing his old shirt brought out of storage made the memories come flooding back.

I can see Jack now, running out for Saturday morning football training at the village community centre the day after his birthday in September 2000, resplendent in his shiny, new shirt.

He lined up alongside his little friend Ben who, to my disgust, was wearing a Manchester United shirt with GIGGS on the back.

I watched the training session with Ben’s mum, who was kind enough to mention how nice Jack looked in his new Arsenal shirt.

“Your Ben looks great too,” I lied. “I see he’s Ryan Giggs – is that his favourite player?”

“No, he wanted to be Van Nistelroy, but it’s a pound a letter,” she explained.

That was then and this is now. Fingers crossed, Chloe will wear Uncle Jack’s shirt with pride until she grows into it and then needs a new one.

Maybe, she’ll want to watch Match of the Day with me – even if there aren’t any Pringles on offer.

Maybe, she’ll play for Arsenal and England one day. Maybe.


GANMA has since unearthed another Arsenal shirt from days gone by.

“It’s a blue one, so I think it must be away shirt,” she said.

With the name SEAMAN on the back, it was gently explained to her that it’s actually a goalie’s shirt.


JEAN Spenceley, of Stokesley Women’s Institute, recalled the day her sister Ruth was in the park with her dad.

Ruth, four at the time, wanted to play on the grass but her dad said she couldn’t.

“Why not?” asked Ruth.

“Because there’s a sign over there saying ‘Keep off the grass,’” replied her dad.

“Well, the birds are on the grass,” said the little girl.

“They can’t read,” explained her dad.

“Neither can I,” said Ruth.