Soccer / family
3 Generations Enjoy a Day at the Football
Yesterday saw myself, my dad and my son take our annual trip to watch a football game. Last year at around this time, the 3 of us went to Wembley the home of English football, to watch my side Tottenham Hotspur (Spurs) beat Crystal Palace. Spurs played the entire 2017/18 season at Wembley while their old ground White Hart Lane was being knocked down and I thought it would be a great opportunity for my then 5-year-old son to experience an 80,000+ seater stadium. We sat right up in the heavens and I have to say the look on his face when we entered the arena itself was priceless! The perfect green grass, the sound of thousands of people singing in unison and the high octane feel of a Premier League match - what's not to like? Probably the only problem with going to Wembley (particularly on a Sunday as it was last year) is that it took us over 2 hours to get there on the train. While my youngest enjoyed the atmosphere of a football match and managed to stay still for most of the 90mins, tagging on a 5-hour round trip does leave all parties a little bit tired and stressed by the end of the day. Therefore, this year we decided to take the 35minute trip to watch my dad's team and my 2nd team Bristol City play away at Reading's Madjeski Stadium just a 35min drive from home.The Pros of taking kids to live football matchesThe obvious pro is the excitement of the whole occasion. I still get goosebumps when I walk out from the stadium concourse into the arena proper and the whole playing surface and ground opens up in front of you. While my dad and I enjoyed a warming cup of tea prior to kick off, my son just stood at the entrance to the seating area, transfixed by the scene in front of him. He still remembers our trip to Wembley from last year and can recall in detail everything about the game, including the sausage roll he ate prior to the match! I'm hoping in the years to come that he'll still be talking about this experience too. As you can see, we made sure to get tickets as close to the action as possible this time and we were lucky that in the 1st half in particular almost all of the play came down our flank. My son has just started going to football practice, so being able to see how fast the players run, how hard they kick the ball and the general pace of a pro football game up close was a real treat for him.He is also not shy about getting involved in the game from a spectator's point of view. Bristol City's left-back, Jay DaSilva (on-loan from Chelsea) had a pretty poor match and I'd be interested to know if the constant barracking he got throughout the first half from a young boy in the stands helped or hindered his performance. "Come on DaSilva" and "Put it in the goal DaSilva" were shouted with enthusiasm by my boy for 45minutes. At one point, a man sitting in front of us turned around to say he wished he could get his young son to come to a football match and be as enthusiastic as this, all he wants to do is play on his i-pad. There is no substitute for real-world experiences and of course getting kids interesting in sport and physical activity as a whole is crucial to their general well-being.The Cons of taking kids to live football matchesThe biggest disadvantage is the bad language that you hear throughout the game. We were sat in the so-called "posh seats" with the hospitality and Director's boxes directly behind us and even then some people don't seem able to express themselves without adding a variety of 4 letter words to each and every sentence they utter! I'm not naive enough to believe that even at the age of 6 he hasn't heard most of them before - boys will be boys - but at the same time, I'd prefer if they weren't reinforced or presented as the only way to express one's passion as a sports fan. The other perhaps even more disappointing aspect to the game was the crowd trouble that rubbled on throughout the 2nd half. Bristol is only 45 mins drive along the motorway from Reading and City is a well-supported team so it's understandable that they would bring a lot of away fans with them. As we didn't travel with the official away supporters we wouldn't have been allowed to sit with them anyway and in the end, I'm glad we didn't. While I couldn't see exactly what started the trouble, there were several fights between away supporters and stewards during the match and I don't just mean a bit of pushing and shoving, there were punches being thrown. I don't want to get caught up in that kind of thing myself and I certainly don't want to potentially put my 6-year-old son's safety in jeopardy because a few idiots choose to behave like animals. Real fans show pride and passion for their side but they do so in a way that enhances the reputation of the club rather than tarnishing it.I have written before about the importance of creating family-friendly atmospheres at cricket grounds. Given that Reading struggled to fill their stadium with home support perhaps they need to think of ways to do the same!Reading win 3-2The match itself was a very evenly fought contest by 2 fairly average Championship sides. Reading twice took the lead during the 1st half only to be pegged back by Bristol City. The first 45 minutes were entertaining if not a little low on quality and as you can see from the highlights below the goals generally came as a result of defensive errors rather than brilliant individual play. The overall standard of play from both teams improved markedly after the break and Reading took the lead again with a well-worked team goal finished off by former Premier League (Aston Villa) midfielder Leandro Bacuna. In a tense last 15minutes, Bristol City threw men forward in the hope of getting at least a point from their travels but they were thwarted once by the frame of the goal and then again when another former Villa player, this time Bristol City's Andreas Wiemann, shot the ball straight at Reading's keeper when through on goal. Overall, a point a piece would have been a fair result for both teams but for Reading who have had a pretty poor start to the season this was a very valuable and potentially season-changing win.For me, Reading's captain and central defender Liam Moore was the best player on the pitch. He has pace and power plus the skill on the ball to be able to start off most of his side's attacks. You can see why he has been involved with the national team at youth level and why the likes of Manchester United, Arsenal and Spurs have all cast an eye over him in the past. If he can continue that kind of form then I wouldn't be surprised if he gets a chance in the Premier League at some point in the next few years.For Bristol City, I think Josh Brownhill is a very unrated footballer. He scored one and created one today, before so nearly clinching a point for his team when his reaction finish from close range hit the post. For a 22-year-old, he has a wonderful touch and technique and can play off both feet, something that we don't see enough young English talent capable of doing. His starting position in this game was off the right wing but I'd like to see him given the chance to play a more central role in the future and again if he can keep improving then he might well be able to follow in the footsteps of former City players, Joe Bryan and Bobby Reid who are both playing in the Premier League this season with Fulham and Cardiff respectively.You've never heard of Bristol City? - Drink up ye Cider!Well you have now and maybe in the future, you'll see a bit more of them. They've never played in the Premier League so most fans outside England are unlikely to even be aware of the club. They did come very close to gaining promotion to the top tier of English football in 2008 but were beaten by Hull City 1-0 in the playoff final.Perhaps their most famous exploit in recent years was beating Manchester United in last season's EFL Cup on their way to a Semi-Final appearance against Manchester City where they ran Pep Guardiola's star-studded team pretty close across the 2 legs. It was a great night at Ashton Gate, full of passion and drama. Watch the celebrations from the home fans, the players and the manager Lee Johnson who runs down the touchline to celebrate with a ball boy when City got their injury-time winner.Watching that game the performance of Marlon Pack, Bristol City's captain (he scored yesterday as well) epitomized everything that can be great about football. Pack plays with such passion and drive everytime he steps on the pitch that it's easy to see why he would be named captain and why he is such a fan favourite. Bristol City paid £100k to sign him from Cheltenham, Manchester United paid Juventus £89 million for Paul Pogba. Watch the full game of Bristol City v Manchester United and tell me which player you'd rather have wearing your team's shirt?