What I’ve decided on doing is give everyone brief updates of what has gone on in the last week, what I’ve been working on and many of the fun events that have been brought to us by O and C. On certain occasions… hopefully most occasions I’ll have something big and insightful to write about which I’d lead off with, we’ll see how that pans out. Here we go…
There are two really big loves in O’s life. When I say loves, it is more like obsessions. His first love and the longest lasting love is cars, no surprise that I will have that as a post of it’s own but his other love is football.
Football is a typical love for anyone in the UK many have a pretty relaxed relationship with it, follow a team, watch the occasional match, then there’s superfans, that is the category I would place O in.
He is a massive Southampton FC fan, having spent 2 seasons as a season ticket holder he just keeps consuming football in his own special way of course. He must have been about 3 when he watched his first live football match. One thing you will learn about my wife and I is that we like a good deal, we came across an under 21s league match between Southampton and Chelsea with free entry, so we thought if he didn’t enjoy it we hadn’t lost anything. One thing that did concern us was that he was very sensitive to loud noises and was always unsure about new things so we packed his ear defenders and constantly reminded him we were there to make sure he was at least given a chance to enjoy it before his anxiety took over.
The ear defenders were a must, even though there were only 7000 people there, he kept them on the whole time and was very unsure when the crowd cheered after Southampton scored(It was a half-hearted cheer as Chelsea had already scored 4, but still, who are we to judge what can unnerve a person). It was the way he managed his own anxiety that was so impressive, especially as he was only 3. When we arrived we managed to get seated at the front, next to a lovely lady who gave him a Saints scarf, she said it was a special scarf and he loved it, wrapped himself up in it and locked onto the game, well 2 players. During that time he really enjoyed numbers(to be fair, he still does now, but that was the start of his love of numerical digits) and at the beginning of the game he was just calling out the numbers of the players, when they touched the ball. After about 20 minutes or so he had locked onto one Chelsea player who was playing very well and a Saints player who himself was having a really good game, I think the players were Ruben Loftus-Cheek(Chelsea) and Harrison Reed(Southampton) but I can’t be 100% sure. Not that we realised at the time but what he had done was filtered out every other person by focusing on just 2 people, one to focus on when Chelsea had the ball and one when Southampton had the ball and obscuring his peripheral vision with the scarf.
It was a couple of years before we thought of getting him a season ticket, we had thought that we would first try when he started school, thinking it would be the best time, his season ticket was only £50 so again it wouldn’t have been a big loss if he had decided it wasn’t for him. We had bought one season ticket for O and one for my wife and I to share, we took it in turns to take him to games, I was able to take him to the first game, a 3-0 loss to Everton. Between the under 21s game and this game he had shown more and more interest in football, by then and still even now he won’t sit through a whole film, but he will sit through a game of football on the TV without moving and by that I mean any game, for example a game between Honduras and South Korea that ended 0-0, but he was transfixed.
Again he had his ear defenders and again they remained on throughout the entire game, it is only been throughout the last season where the ear defenders have been slowly phased out where he is now used to being in a stadium of 30,000+ people shouting and cheering and doesn’t wear them, however we will take them to the start of next season as there wasn’t as much noise last season with no much action to talk about throughout the year. Just as before his coping mechanism was to focus on one player and follow that player, whether he had the ball or not, initially it was Dusan Tadic, he would follow him throughout the entire game and carried on watching him game after game. As you would imagine if Tadic wasn’t playing or got substituted he had to switch his focus, so over his first season he slowly, as he got more confident in his surroundings started following more and more players before eventually watching the whole team, but seeing the game differently to how many 5 or 6 year olds would see a football game. The way he consumed the football as I have just said before affected the way he sees football in comparison to how many other boys and girls see football and has even affected how he plays and makes him very unique, but more about that later.
Seeing the technical side of the game from watching one player for 90 minutes and everything they do he grasped positioning and movement at a very young age and constantly gets other adults around him to stare in amazement as he will call out plays or shout suggestions that are tactically sound, which to be fair many adults can’t do. The love of numbers also meant he would then associate numbers with the players and then their names and learned the squad in that fashion. His football knowledge has just grown and grown and over the space of two games at the end of last season II had realised he took my wife’s place as the most knowledgeable person in the family I could talk football to. In the Saints vs Man Utd game it took about an hour for my wife to realise that Wayne Rooney was playing(and standing about 20 feet in front of her) and she didn’t know over half the players on the pitch, in fairness to her parenting is tiring and she wasn’t following as much football as she used to, but in the Saints vs Man City game, O once again stunned anyone in earshot.
As you can imagine, against Man City Saints were seriously under the cosh with a certain ginger star running the defence ragged. O pipes up, “Oh dad, that’s Kevin De Bruyne, he’s awesome.” I replied that I had no complaints with that. “He’s Belgian isn’t he dad?” I nodded. “Is Vincent Kompany playing?” I checked and then said yes. “He’s Belgian too, they have two Belgians playing.” I gave an impressed nod and noticed a few stunned faces around, listening to a 6 year old not only pointing out players but their nationality. Everyone’s jaws hit the floor when he carried on, calling out more players and nationalities, simply because he was on a roll.
As you can well imagine, someone who absorbs so much football plays as well. At his level you have 2 types of players; the fast confident players who run with the ball and take players on and score goals and everyone else. Does O fall into either of these categories? Of course he doesn’t. Less so now but as close as a year ago, games of football involved every player on the pitch following the football like a swarm of bees chasing pollen but even now everyone is only thinking of the here and now… except O. You will often see him standing back from the crowd, poised and waiting, seeing how the situation will play out and pouncing at the most opportune moment. He isn’t the fastest player, at all(even though he’s convinced he’s one of the fastest) he works around this by being very quick minded, he passes(another rare thing for a 6 year old to do) and passes well, immediately moving and waiting for a return(although that rarely happens unless the player is tackled and the ball breaks to him, right place right time, most of the time).
He is a pleasure to watch, all the makings of a midfield general, he’s loud, tries to play the ball and if the ball is loose, it’s his, oh yes it’s his. He is a hard tackling player which does lead to many cringe moments as he will not back down and there have been various occurrences of him just colliding with players bigger than him(which is a regular occurrence as he plays with the year group above him) or the worst one for me, he goes in late. Once he’s committed, he’s committed, the decision has been made and there is no turning back which has seen some nasty looking tackles, but thankfully as yet, no serious injuries and we are working hard on keeping it that way.
With O being as committed to his craft as he is, we do as you expect have to deal with extreme emotional swings both watching and playing. Playing he gets very upset if he feels a rule has been broken or he has been wronged and we do have an issue with him arguing with the referee if he feels he has done no wrong… and won’t let it go, because he is right, and that is that. He also piles way too much pressure on himself, for example over the weekend he made about a dozen tackles in a game, the attacking team were getting nowhere, he mistimes one tackle and they get through and it’s like he scored an own goal in the world cup final and everything is doom and gloom, it’s all good or all bad, there is no grey area. It normally takes a few minutes of him playing with such a sour look on his face before he sort of calms down after a mistake but one sure fire way of cheering him up is having him score a goal. When that happens, there is so much relief coming from my wife and I, people around us can almost feel it. When a goal is scored, just like Alan Shearer, we know what’s coming; a loud and long YEEEEESSSSSS, followed by an aeroplane celebration into a knee slide and pose, the O celebration. He has started to introduce a jump and fist into the air ending but that’s only when he thinks about it, second or third goal maybe.
Once that goal has been scored however, everything that has happened before, has been forgotten, no missed tackles, no agreements with a decision, nothing, only good things have happened. This is him all over, no matter what the situation the mood is absolute, if something bad happens, everything is bad, there is no recollection of the good and vice versa.
An example I love to use on this is from him watching football and one match in particular (Sorry, not sorry any Liverpool fans). At half time Saints were 2-0 down to Liverpool at half time, playing terribly and O was howling, he had given up on everything, wanted to go home and the world was about to end. This was compounded when Mane(his then favourite player) missed a penalty. Long story short Saints ended up winning 3-2 in an incredible game and at the full time whistle he was grinning like a Cheshire cat, saying how he knew they were going to win, he wasn’t worried at all. My wife was asking about half time, but nothing, he was either refusing to acknowledge it happened or blanked it from his memory, as far as he was concerned, it never happened.
Going forward, we have renewed our season tickets for his 3rd season and I am taking my FA coaching badges to be his team manager for the following season and beyond, it is the best feeling ever seeing him enjoy himself so much and I can’t wait to see what the next season brings.