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Georgina Turner

My Dad will watch any football, no matter who’s playing or to what standard: he’d crash his car straining to catch a glimpse of a park game

I don’t have an abiding first memory of watching football, or a most memorable match, but lots of faintly remembered moments from a childhood of shivering 1980s Saturdays. A collage of hotdogs and runny noses at Kingsmeadow; flicking screwed-up betting slips off the edge of the Shelf at White Hart Lane (my friend Paul and I once filled the entire rim of a man’s hat with little balled-up bits of paper); squeezing my Dad’s hand as I walked up Wembley Way for the first time.

I don’t think I’ve been more excited, as a football fan, than the time I got my face smashed in to a barrier at an away game (an odd start, I’ll grant you). As Tottenham scored everyone, including a gigantic bald man next to me, started jumping around and my head somehow ended up in a game of pong between his enormous frame and the metal bar I’d been leaning on. I needed immediate medical attention, which had Dad most upset; we’d have to miss the end of the half. As we were led around the edge of the pitch by a member of the St John Ambulance – Dad with eyes firmly on the pitch – we passed the dugouts. Reclining on the Spurs bench was Paul Gascoigne, who leaned forward and chirruped, “You all right, pet?” My brain throbbed like it had been in a microwave, but Gazza asked if I was all right! If OMG had been invented back then, I would almost certainly have inked it into my diary later that night. 

My favourite memories, however, come from the Tottenham training ground, where Dad liked to warm up for a 3pm kick-off by watching hours of reserves and youth action on a Saturday morning. It was usually freezing and often raining, giving the ground underfoot a cowpat squelch. But occasionally a first-teamer would turn up, transforming the bleak north London landscape in to the Los Angeles hills in my eyes. Gary Mabbutt! Gudni Bergsson! Mabbutt crouched down to talk to some children, so I could see him properly and listen to his cheery, high-pitched voice, but I was so small that most of the time I could only see the bottom halves of those standing around us. Often I stood and stared at the trench coat tails and shined shoes of Terry Venables, as he slurped a cup of tea and gave an audience to the handful of fans that turned up regularly. I would watch him shift his weight forwards and backwards, side to side, every now and then swooshing his trench coat aside to slide a hand into his pocket. To all of which I attached considerable mafiosa gravitas, of course, and was thrilled that me and my Dad were in on the deal.

— Georgina Turner is a freelance football writer and co-author of Jumpers for Goalposts – How Football Sold its Soul