I have never been prouder of my mum than when, out of thin air, she said to a whole room ‘didn’t Roberto di Matteo score in an FA Cup Final?’ It was unprovoked footballing knowledge. For a woman who only tolerates football it was like hearing your child’s first words. Football in my mum’s family is like osmosis. It doesn’t just get under your skin it seeps through it even when you don’t want it to.
Our parents genes and life experiences have a great bearing upon how we develop from children to adults. Whether you believe in nature over nurture, our parents genes and upbringing influences who we turn out to be, especially when you are born into a sport as tribal as football.
Now I have a confession to make. It’s a part of me that I have kept hidden for a very long time and it makes me feel a little grubby and in need of a wet wipe.
Ok, deep breath, here it comes…I am a quarter Blade. There, I’ve said it out loud!
My maternal grandfather was a fully fledged Sheffield United fan. Sadly, I never had to the chance to meet him as he died when my mum was a young girl but I’ve heard all the stories from the family. Before I tell you a little more about my Blades ancestry I need to explain about my Nan’s family first.
My Nan is one of 10 children. Her oldest brother Jack had 10 children and the oldest of his 10 children had 10 children too. When a teacher at my junior school gave us homework over one weekend to complete a family tree I turned up to my lesson on the Monday morning with almost a full roll of Wilkinson’s lining paper under my arm.
The vastness is not the only extraordinary thing about my mum’s side of the family. All of them are Sheffield Wednesday fans, and I mean all of them. If we put them all together on the Kop they’d fill a block and a half. It’s a brave woman that bring home a Sheffield United fan in those circumstances, but my Nan did.
My Nan introduced the man she loved to the family and he got on so well with her brothers that they often went out drinking together. However, she had omitted one piece of vital information about his football tendencies. It was a long time before her family found out but they liked him despite his deficiencies.
It didn’t stop her brothers from endlessly torturing him though. My Mum’s uncles were so prejudiced against United they refused to have boiled ham or bacon if it still had the fat on it, purely because they wouldn’t have anything red and white on their plate.
On match days the brothers went further than that. They would come home from Hillsborough to a cooked tea which was waiting for them in the dining room, all except my Grandad. He was forced to eat his dinner in the kitchen, ostracised for his red and white beliefs. Then Sunday would come around and they would all be friends again and off for a pint of Wards at the Working Men’s Club. Pride and prejudice executed in the Wednesday way.
When my Mum and Uncle came along they too were indoctrinated into the Owls clan but this was still within a generation where women didn’t get involved in football. As they got older and my Grandad passed away, Mum became the mother she is today by looking after both her brother and her Mum. There wasn’t time for football even if she had wanted to.
Mum has been to football matches with my Dad. In total Mum has been to three matches, all of which Wednesday have lost. Not only did they lose but The Owls have conceded 15 goals under my mother’s watchful eye. Dad believes she is cursed and won’t let her go again and Mum just thinks Wednesday are rubbish and derides us for ‘wasting our money’. From her experience of visiting Hillsborough and watching our never ending underperforming TV appearances, she can only make judgements on what she sees. What I don’t get from my Mum genetically is the sheer bloody-mindedness to keep going to watch football especially when times are bad. I’ll come to my Dad’s genes in the next instalment!
I sometime think that had I known my Grandad I may have had a different perspective on the red and white half of the city. I may even have had a soft spot for the Blades. Instead I have been brought up by vast swathes of Wednesdayites within my Mum’s family that have conditioned me to blindly support the Owls. It hasn’t affected me me though.
But I do cut the fat off my bacon!
I’d love to hear from you about your Mums. Is she the reason you got into football? Is your mum’s family the reason you support the club you do? Does your Mum hate football with a passion?? Why not leave a comment below.
Next instalment…paternal genes. My Dad’s really looking forward to that one being published! :0)