Football, in particular Arsenal, was a conversational safe space for my Dad and I. The conversations would always follow the same path, unless there was a particular football related scandal in the press that week. It's gone to hell and in a hand cart…greed is destroying it … X player couldn't trap a bag of cement let alone a football… if you're paid that much you should be able to use both feet or never miss a penalty… They were all interchangeable as much as they were reliable. By the time I was 10 and football mad, his cynicism regarding the direction and future of the game had properly taken hold - with the exception for his love for Arsenal. They always seemed to be above his criticism of the failing national team or the extravagance of the Premiership, and over the years we got in to the habit of phoning each other just after the latest results to celebrate a win, the misfortune of rival clubs or hopefully both. Sometimes we would barley speak, instead just whooping and laughing together down the line.
I can’t do that now. At the final whistle Arsenal’s win over Valencia which saw them in the Europa League Final for the first time since 2000, I was so desperate for the phone to ring that I found myself dialling his number. I knew it was ridiculous; the number was disconnected months ago, but I did feel better just in carrying out the old ritual. On 29th March, I’ll be wearing his personalised 80th Birthday 1930s Arsenal shirt, hoping for the win for both of us.