My First Eleven
THE ADVENTURE (AND SHOW/BOOK)
Seeing 'your' football team for the first time is always a special moment. Having spent years watching your idols on television, putting posters of them on your wall, collecting cards and stickers with their faces on, recording the matches off Radio 5 onto cassette tapes and listening back to the game on long car journeys to family holidays, failing at various school subjects because you're more obsessed with player stats than learning academic stuff, pretending to be these players in the school playground...watching them, in real life, at the ground you dream about, is a totally glorious moment in any child's life. Especially if they win.
My first Spurs game was on 17th April 1993. Tottenham were mid-table, playing against lowly Oldham Athletic, so arguably all that was to play for, from a home point of view, was a little pride. Spurs won 4-1 and I was a very happy kid indeed.
This was the end of the first season where the top flight had been named the Premiership. For all it's glitz and re-branding, arguably very little had changed. True, there was money in the game, but not the silly sort of money that you get these days. Only three substitutes were allowed. Football was changing, and growing commercially, but that hadn't happened just yet. This was, of course, 26 years ago.
I've decided to try and meet the Spurs team that started that game to, if, anything, thank them, for making 11-year-old me very happy. I want to ask them questions, such as...did you remember that game? I imagine not. If not, what games do you remember? How many games does a professional footballer remember or is it just like going to work? How has football changed since you played? Do you feel there are more pressures on modern day footballers? How difficult was it to stop playing and find something else to do for a living? A lot of us, myself included, who watch football spend more time than is probably healthy wondering what footballers do when they retire.
And because meeting them would be totally awesome...after all they were my first eleven.
The players I hope to meet are: Ian Walker, Dean Austin, Justin Edinburgh, Vinny Samways, Gary Mabbutt, Neil Ruddock, Steve Sedgley, Nick Barmby, Darren Anderton, Teddy Sheringham and Paul Allen.
I imagine a lot of this adventure will be about finding the players in the first place, and then convincing them to meet up for a coffee/pint. I'll let you know how I get on – I imagine I'll write a book and an Edinburgh Fringe show about it. You know, the usual.
But of course, I'm not the only one who looks back to their first game with a warm fondness that is barely matched.
The My First Eleven Podcast will be launched soon, in all the regular places (you know, iTunes and that) as soon as I've booked up a bunch of lovely guests. I'll be chatting to a wide range of people, some you may have heard of, others you won't have done, alongside some ex-footballers, of course.
We'll reminisce about the first game they went to, how it went and what it meant to them, we'll look at the starting line-up for that game and investigate where those players are now and we'll chat about what affect football has on our daily lives. Above all, we'll have a really lovely time.
More info on all of that soon.