My son and I returned safely from our trip to see the mighty POSH and another team based in Liverpool. Compared with most of my other trips abroad, it was basically incident free. That was of course by design because while traveling with a 13 year old, it is probably best to play it safe. Despite that lack of crazy happenings, the trip was extremely enjoyable and gave us many things to ponder and remember.
Can’t Buy Me Love!
The Beatles may have been right by saying that love can’t be bought but the purchase of a new jersey of your son’s favorite team does help. Our first stop was in Liverpool for the Everton vs Manchester United match. We had a day to tour around the city a bit but most of our time was spent at the club shop and taking photos near the two stadiums of the city’s rival teams. Despite leaning toward Liverpool in the past, I had to stick with my son in his support of the Toffees. It was not an easy thing to do since the first English player that I ever knew by name was Kevin Keegan. Remember that I was raised in an era before the internet, so VHS instructional videos on soccer were my introduction to international soccer. However keeping with my overall thought process, supporting Everton makes much more sense for me. I tend to choose the road less traveled. Regardless, on match day it seems that I made the right choice. Everton pummeled the Red Devils from start to finish. It seemed as though ManU was expecting the Toffees to roll over and die. My son got the perfect introduction to live football in England, coincidentally 4-0 was the same score to the first POSH match that I ever attended.
We Lose If You Win!
Before and during the trip, I tried to impress upon Luke that football is taken very seriously throughout Europe but especially England. During our train ride to Peterborough, he got an up close look at what I was talking about. I had feared that we might end up seeing a clash between fans of opposing teams at some point. That didn’t happen. However on our trip to Peterborough, three Man United fans were having a heated discussion about who they would prefer to win the league. The two older (around my age) fans were adamant that they would prefer that ManU lose to Man City in order for City to win the title. Their historical hatred for Liverpool was so strong that they could not bare to see them win the title. The younger man was not bothered by who won the title and only cared whether United sorted out their own issues. It never looked like the conversation was going to turn physical but it was just enough of personal experience for Luke to see the gravity of support for one’s team in England. We changed trains in Manchester and headed toward our next destination. In the evening of Easter Sunday, we reached Peterborough.
One of my favorite quotes is “A man can never step into the same river twice because the river is different and so is he.” This quote applies to my return to Peterborough. Whenever I travel, I try to go for a run early in the morning. It’s a great way to see a city before it becomes crowded with people, traffic, etc. My first destination was London Road Stadium (The ABAX). It had been almost exactly twelve years since my last visit. The stadium much like the team seems to have been upgraded in noticeable ways but there is a core to both that have remained and make it seem the same. I often wonder how fans of teams that have been bought and revamped like Man City feel about their club. Having read the book by our chairman, I am quite comfortable with the methodical progress of the POSH over the past decade plus. The success has come with sacrifice and resources that are not limitless which suits me perfectly. The same is true of the city. Peterborough is a small city that is not overwhelming. It’s easy to feel at home there.
When In Rome!
With my young son in tow, I could not take part in everything that football culture has to offer. I did take the time to visit the home of PISA at Eb’s. We didn’t stay long and I only had one beer but I felt like I needed to show up and see what was going on. I really should have coordinated better with some of the people on londonroad.net. It would have been nice to put faces with screen names but this was a last minute decision because I did not know what to expect from the place. It was actually the perfect place to go prior to the match. The food looked and smelled good. The memorabilia around the place was a good retrospective on some of the reasons why I’m a POSH fan now.
Close Enough to Feel a Part!
The match itself was preceded by a “First Time Fan” experience. My son got the chance to sit in the team seats and high five the players on their way out to the warm-up. For me it was an opportunity to be a few feet away from two POSH legends: Aaron Mclean and Darren Ferguson. Although I must admit that I dropped the ball on getting photos with both. As a coach I just couldn’t bring myself to interfere with pregame preparations. Despite that fact, I still enjoyed the experience of getting down on the field level and seeing the players up close.
Our seats were great and the Sunderland fans were definitely up for the game. During the first half, I was a bit worried by our play and support. The team created a few opportunities but there seemed to be a non-committal feeling from the players and the POSH fans. It was as if neither were truly ready to give their all for fear that they might be disappointed. In the second half, that all changed as the players and the fans seemed to be fully invested in challenging a “big club” for the win on the day. Although the Sunderland goal came first, it was at a point in the game where POSH were starting to cause real problems. I knew we could pull level!
Then it happened! Godden’s goal electrified the stadium (other than the Sunderland areas). I don’t know exactly why but the combination of all of the circumstances culminated into so much excitement that I almost fainted. Jumping, cheering and clapping, I could feel myself getting light headed. The only thought that saved me was that if I passed out, my son would have to deal with it. So I calmed myself down. Godden had a chance to make it the perfect occasion but it wasn’t to be.
Prior to the match, the man who lead the “First Time Fan” activities had said to the group, “If we win, you need to come back because we won. If we tie or lose, you need to come back to see a win.” Although the game ended in a draw, it was still a great experience for Luke and I. I would have preferred three points and a dominant performance like I got during my last visit to London Road but this was special in its own way because I was there with Luke. We will will be back at some point and hopefully it won’t take a decade this time!