25th January 1995. Football fans will remember the date due to a certain Frenchman, the once-upon-a-time Leeds favourite Eric Cantona, demonstrating his appreciation of Jackie Chan movies to the front row fans at Selhurst Park. In snowbound Leeds, there was kicking and screaming of a different kind as my son Liam joined the biggest team of all, Human Race FC.
I must be honest and say that my son’s football allegiance didn’t immediately spring to mind as I tearfully held him for the first time. However, the fact is that wherever Liam finds himself in later life, he’ll always be a Leeds lad and therefore a Leeds United fan. It’s his birthright.
My philosophy is that you support your local team. My dad is an Arsenal fan, but he never tried to make them my team, even on the occasional trips to Highbury with him. I was born in Parsons Green in Fulham and therefore the men in white from Craven Cottage are my team. Liam, Leeds born, now has his own team in white to follow. Like my early days watching Fulham, Liam has seen the early years of his support dogged by relegation and to his credit has remained loyal which is not always easy when he is bombarded by the hyper-inflated Sky ideal that no football exists outside the world of the Premier League.
What of loyalty? In Leeds last Premier League season, whilst Liam desperately asked each week, “…are we going down dad?…”, an icon of Leeds at the time, the badge kissing Alan Smith, stole across the Pennines, like Cantona before him. Despite his young years, Liam knew this to be an act of disloyalty and so down came the Smith posters, as did his previously prized possession of a timesheet signed “…To Liam, Best Wishes, Alan Smith…”. Liam echoed the words of so many others with memorabilia from the departed No:17, when he asked, “…What shall I do with this now?…”
Through his time as a Leeds supporter this will no doubt happen again. He shouldn’t be surprised, because he’ll remember he was born the day another player lacking loyalty kicked up a fuss.