Spurs vs United, Kane vs Lukaku, Poch vs Mourinho in the FA Cup Semis against a Backdrop of Sports-Crazed Fathers & Sons
“Join me, and together we can rule the galaxy as father and son.” — Darth Vader to Luke
“Your first-born won’t support your football team? Just have more children.” — Guardian newspaper headline
“My paternal duty was to deliver my first-born, Ashley Jr., as a Manchester United fan. Where did it all go so wrong?” — Ashley Collie Sr.
“When my son said to me ‘I’m not sure who I support, dad, but I hate Chelsea and will never support them,’ I wept tears of joy.” — Anonymous
Fathers and Sons. Philosopher Samuel Johnson wrote: “There must always be a struggle between a father and son, while one aims at power and the other at independence.”
It’s always complicated. Always has been. There’s King and Prince Hamlet. Vito and Michael Corleone. The Father and Son in Harry Chapin’s “Cat’s in the Cradle.” Frederick Christ Trump and Donald — both heard the siren song of hair dye. Then there’s TV’s Homer and Bart Simpson, UK’s Steptoe and Son, and Americanized Sanford and Son.
But when you add in love of a sports team, then it raises the ante.
My father, Ashley Sr., has been an inveterate Manchester United football fan all my life. A cricket fan from childhood, dad was won over by the team going through the awful Munich air disaster in 1958 which destroyed manager Matt Busby’s young “babes.” ManU came back from that to rule Europe in 1968 when they won the European Cup. But in the early 1960s, north London’s Tottenham Hotspur ruled the roost, being the first English team in 1960/61 to win the League/Cup double in the century. Then they became the first British team to win any European trophy (Cup Winners Cup) in 1963, and won three FA Cup trophies in seven years.
It was on the back of those early Tottenham “glory glory years” triumphs that made me a Tottenham fan and brought a lifetime of sporting conflict into the lives of my father and me, Ashley and Ashley Jr. I don’t remember exactly when it was, but I must’ve made him drop his cuppa when I chanted something like, “Come on you, Spurs!” in our home back in Newport, Wales.
And, it’s been tooth and nail ever since then, heading into the most recent encounter: Spurs vs United at Wembley on April 21 in the FA Cup semifinal. “Poch’s” Kane, Alli and Eriksen vs “Moan-rinho’s” Lukaku, Mata, and Sanchez. The Lilywhite Spurs vs the Red Devils. Two of the oldest football clubs in the world going mano a mano. Much like my father and his son.
Over the Premiership years, primarily under former manager Alex Ferguson, ManU have used their huge financial clout to mostly overshadow their top-6 English rivals (ManCiteh, this season’s champs, Chelsea, last season’s champs, Liverpool, Arsenal and my Spurs). ManU’s financial clout includes: magnificent Old Trafford’s capacity of 74,994, makes it the largest club football stadium in England; and, ManU beat Real Madrid to remain top of the Deloitte Money League for a second consecutive year, generating total revenue of €676m (£581m); my team Spurs were #11, earning about half of what my dad’s team did.
Money talks in the world football. Consequently, my dad’s been able to stick it to me in good fun, but it still hurts, Ouch!
That’s why this upcoming game may be a watershed moment. Spurs recently beat United at Wembley (Tottenham’s temporary home) 2–0 in January, and the two teams have split the last three seasons’ results. Hope springs eternal.
Now, here’s an additional twist in the Spurs vs ManU rivalry. One of my longtime pals, Jeremy Thomas in LA is originally from the same neck of the woods as me, South Wales. A successful bar owner (The Room in Hollywood and NoHo’s Skinny’s Lounge), Thomas was born in Cardiff but grew up in Newport. I grew up in Newport and went to school in Cardiff. We both love the national Wales rugby and football teams and lived in Newport at the same time without knowing each other — although our paths probably crossed. Small world and all.
I’ve always wanted to beat ManU every time and badly — one season Spurs beat our rivals 5–1 with Tottenham legendary forward Jimmy Greaves scoring a goal for the ages, but in the return match, ManU beat us by the exact same score 5–1. But like Jeremy, I totally enjoyed watching their flair players, from Georgie Best, Denis Law and Bobby Charlton to Cantona and Giggs. Spurs have always had a tradition of having flair players from Greaves, Hoddle, Ginola , Gazza and Ossie Ardiles, who recently visited with LA Spurs.
I asked Jeremy to tell how he became a lifelong ManU fan, and sure enough it also involved his father:
“I became a Man United fan around the age of 5, in 1967, and one of my first real football memories was winning the 1968 European Cup. My first dad knew how much I loved ManU but could never afford to take me there. But, every birthday he got me loads of those hard bubble gum packets with the soccer players’ cards. I became obsessed with Mr. Best as he was like a rock star, but Bobby Charlton was always my favorite player. My dad died when I was 6 and my step-dad started courting my mum about three years later. He knew I was number one in my mum’s eyes, so to win me over, he took me to watch Man U against Wolves in 1972. We were coming down at that point. Charlton was getting on and Best’s head was somewhere else. But just seeing them on the pitch along with Dennis Law, Stepney, etc, was like being on another planet. Later on, around 1984, I worked at Best’s bar ‘Blondes’ in Mayfair. He didn’t seem a very happy man at the time, always quite distant, and was definitely not off the booze. As one of my idols, this made me very sad so I’ve tried, over time, to blank those memories out and only remember the football genius he was. For awhile, I guess I followed his lead into booze and birds. But thankfully never quite reached his excesses.”
You and me, both, boyo.
Being like the only Newport lads in all of Los Angeles makes Jeremy and me share a few things in common. But on Saturday, in the words of another famous manager: “Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I assure you, it’s much more serious than that.”
May the best team on the day win. Come on you, Spurs. And, We All Follow United.