For someone born and, for some time, raised in Liverpool it hasn't been easy to accept that both my sons support Chelsea Football Club.
I suppose it could be claimed that there are mitigating circumstances in the fact that, although there are some clubs on the fringes of where they were born in The Peak District, there are no significant teams actually in the region to which they could pledge territorial allegiance. However, declaring affection for a team as far away as the capital (and, in so doing, by the way, ignoring the ancestral claim of my father's side, Tottenham Hotspur) is hard to bear.
Anyway, those are the facts and I have to live with them and, if I'm honest, it's hard to deny that the 'glamour boys' of the Chelsea side of the seventies (when my boys were growing up***) did have a certain appeal.
Today, Chelsea play Portsmouth in the FA Cup Final and, for my generation, there are elements of the encounter which re-ignite the magic which used to be associated with the occasion - which, by the way, was extremely significant in the past. In the sixties and seventies, for example, Cup Final day was (I believe) the only Saturday of the whole year where BSM driving instructors were allowed to have the day off so they could watch it on TV.
So far as today's match is concerned, however, the 'magic' factor is a consequence of the extremes of fortune the two participants have experienced in recent times. Chelsea are one of the richest clubs in the world. Portsmouth, on the other hand, are in the hands of The Receiver and facing bankruptcy. This is quite a sad situation which, to a large extent in my opinion, can be attributed to The Football Association.
Since the sport started to become organised, generations ago, the football season - i.e. the matches played throughout the winter months - was administered by The Football League. At the same time, the organisation responsible for selecting the county's international side, The Football Association, operated a knock-out competition which culminated in the Cup Final - at Wembley Stadium, more often than not.
However, in the early nineties, by taking (some might say, stealing) what had previously been known as the First Division out of the Football League, The English Premier League was formed - paradoxically, by The Football Association. In the meantime, it has prospered to such an extent that it is considered by many to be the most successful in the world.
However, this has not been without cost - as has been demonstrated by Portsmouth FC's current situation. Put in very simplistic terms, professional football has become a commercial operation. Furthermore, from being a national pastime, it has become a global business of mind-blowing proportions.
Sadly, this has resulted in significant changes to the game - both on and off the pitch. Insofar as the players are concerned, a combination of the introduction of foreign players and the financial incentives associated with success has led to an increase in practices which border on downright cheating. From the supporters' perspective, meeting the aforementioned financial gains for the players has resulted in enormously increased costs at the turnstiles.
As I've mentioned elsewhere in this blog, from a personal point of view, the game has become less attractive than it used to be. In fact, so far as watching it on TV is concerned, given the option of Rugby Union, I'm becoming inclined towards the latter.
That said, it is the Cup Final, after all; so, I shall be watching it. Not that this will impress my sons too much; because - apart from a natural reaction to their disloyalty - in the good old British tradition of supporting the under-dog, my sympathies will be with the supporters of the side from the south coast.
In compiling this blog, I'm reminded that, for each of the boys' ninth birthdays, I drove them down to London to visit the Chelsea football stadium at Stamford Bridge. Apart from a pilgrimage to the ground, one of the reasons for the journey was to spend some time explaining the facts of life to them. My own experience was that I had been pretty badly served in this respect and I was determined the same shouldn't happen to my own sons.
After one of the trips, my wife casually asked one of the boys (they know which one) if he learned anything of interest.To which she received the reply, "Oh, it was pretty much what we're taught at school - except that dad made up some pretty revolting stuff."
Going on from that story, I recall attending a meeting where parents were being asked for their views on how, what, and whether sexual education would be allowed at that particular school. In particular, I remember that the only objection was from an extremely religious woman who was concerned that none of the 'ladies' in the more explicit drawings were wearing wedding rings.
How times have changed!