When it comes to sport, I like to think that I am a brilliant spectator.
That’s right. I have never really fancied
myself as a sportswoman. At school, my idea of a good hockey match was one where that nasty, hard ball never came within three feet of me. The Darling Daughters, all excellent hockey players, never understood me on this one.
As a spectator, however, I can boast a goodly number of Prime Appearances. I have watched cricket at The Oval and at Lords; I have cheered on rugby players at Twickers (you can tell I am building up
my spectating credentials when I start using nicknames); I have been to Wembley and to Wimbledon. I even had an amazing experience watching the San Francisco Giants play at their spectacular ground, joining in the Seventh Innings Stretch as to the manner born.
Up there among these auspicious occasions is my Saturday morning watching Young Morgan turn out for the Heath Park Rangers Under 7s team. What should I expect, I asked him,
as we prepared to head out for the venue, a rather magnificent area of playing fields marked out with pop up goals and plastic markers into short pitches to match the short legs which will be playing on them. Morgan tells me he and his team mates will start
with “skills” which he proceeds to demonstrate for me, there in the hallway of his home, with one football boot on and the other off. He breaks off from his “skills” (I am ever so impressed, as befits one who has never developed any
skill with a ball) to ask if I could help him with his shoe laces. I think I make a pretty good job of this important task, tying double knots and all - but his father, arriving on the scene to tell us we must hurry up if we don’t want to be late, says
I haven’t tied them up tightly enough and does the laces up all over again.
There are dozens of boys - and a few girls - tearing around the playing
fields when we arrive. Morgan and James, who will be spectating with me when the matches start, join the fray, while their father patiently explains the format of the next hour to me. There will be four matches, on each of the pitches, each match lasting twelve
minutes (I originally thought it was thirteen but I was put right by My Boy), the beginning and end of which will be signalled by a central whistle. After each game, the teams will change round though our team (yes, indeed, I am feeling a definite sense of
ownership) will stay on the same pitch as we are the home side. This means that Morgan’s team will play four different teams over the course of the morning. I am instructed to remove myself from the playing area as I am neither a player (too old) or
a coach (not sufficiently skilled.) This, however, I am perfectly happy to do because, as a spectator, I Know My Place.
The first match is brilliant and ends in
a 3-3 draw. I am pleasantly surprised that both teams seem better organised than I expected. They play four a side with substitutes brought on half way through a match so that every player gets a game and nobody, as far as I can see, complains when they are
substituted. There is a bit of a fuss when several matches carry on over the allotted time because nobody has heard the whistle blow. My Boy, exercising his influence as Chairman of Heath Park Rangers (or, possibly, simply unable to stop himself) charges off
to draw attention to this Whistle Related Problem.
Then, oh great joy! Morgan comes on as substitute half way through the third match (I think it was the
third though I was starting to feel a bit chilled at this point) and scores an absolute screamer of a goal, as good as any that has gone before. It turned out to be the match winner. Nobody could have been prouder than I was. Apart from the Lad Himself, of
Telling the news to his Grandad, aka Mr B, on the phone later, Morgan pointed out that as well as scoring a goal he had also displayed some excellent defending
- a verdict I was happy to verify.
Yes, I’ve watched Serena Williams play at Wimbledon and England versus Australia at Lords. But, as spectating experiences
go, watching Morgan score a winning goal playing forthe Heath Park Rangers Under 7s was Up There With The Best.