14/04/2015 10:04 BST | Updated 13/06/2015 10:12 BST

Helping Your Child Choose The Right Football Team


How do you help your child choose the right football team to support?

Indeed, what does 'right team' actually mean?

Is it the club nearest your home? Or the team sitting at the top of the league when a child becomes competitively conscious?

Does peer pressure hold more sway than parent pressure?

There is, of course, no definitive answer, but let me tell you how it is in our household.

My sons, aged 10 and seven, eat, sleep, dream and breathe football.

They take their ball to the park whenever the weather permits; they watch every match possible on TV, whether it's the Premiership, the Championship, La Liga, Serie A or Bundesliga.

They inhale every syllable and pixel in the weekly Match of the Day magazine; spend hours browsing YouTube for 'Greatest Goals' compilations.

And, despite the fact we live in London, Manchester United are their chosen-for-them team to follow - because they're following in their father's footsteps. As it should be.

They have Man United kits, Man United socks, Man United goalkeeping gloves, Man United mugs, Man United mags.

Yet a few cracks have appeared in the domestic glass just lately. My boys have been asking me: "Why?"

Why do they support United and not City?

Why don't they support the Sky Blues like their three uncles (my younger brothers, who live in Manchester) do?

Why don't they follow the team that has beaten MY team four times in the last four meetings? Why don't they follow the team that has finally, in the last four years, found success after a billion pound injection of cash from wealthy Arabs because, after all, some of their pals do?

And this week: "Why don't we support a London club, because that's where we live?"

The latter question arose because the community liaison team at Arsenal visited my sons' primary school – and brought the FA Cup with them.


This was an experience that any 10-year-old would give his iPod for and thus my eldest proudly posed with the magnificent trophy and afterwards was given a laminated photo (now magnetised to our fridge, though hidden behind this week's weekly meal planner!).

"Why aren't we Arsenal fans?" my son lamented, in a passive-aggressive kind of way.

"Because you're United." I curtly replied. Is this fatherly control freakery gone mad? Absolutely. But I'm sticking to my guns.

And here's why: I grew up in the east of Manchester, which is a Man City heartland. In fact, the rubble of the two-up-two-down where I spent the first five years of my life lies under City's relatively new Etihad Stadium.

I was effectively Born to be Blue. But I'm a United fan because my older cousins who I worshipped were United fans.

They took me to Old Trafford when I was 11 years old. In fact, the very first game I saw was the infamous Derby in which legend Dennis Law back-heeled a goal into the United net, effectively relegating us to the then Second Division.

That next season – 1976 – my cousins took me to every single United game, both home and away, culminating in the heartbreaking FA Cup Final when Southampton's Bobby Stokes scored the only goal against us. I felt my Tweenage heart shatter.

On the plus side, we won promotion to the old First Division and I saw us triumph in the 1977 FA Cup Final against arch rivals Liverpool. Oh happy days!

So happy, in fact, that those experiences are a fundamental part of my fabric.

Pathetic as it sounds, they form part of my identity – and even more so because my brothers are all City fans. I grew up in a council household tense with mickey-taking rivalry.

Every aspect of our childhood was dominated by this juxtaposition to the extreme extent that we actually fought each other on Manchester Derby days. Oh happy days. Not!

Hence, now that I'm a dad, I am determined not to have such animosity in my own household: if we all support the same team, we can all enjoy the experience together.

Or at least empathise with each other's misery together, given how United have been performing these last two seasons. Not all fathers are such team-choosing tyrants, though.

In fact, dad Ian Charters came up with a novel way of deciding which team his baby son will grow up to support – by auctioning his allegiance on eBay.

Ian, 30, from Cheadle, Greater Manchester, invited bidders to choose either Manchester City or Manchester United for his eight-month-old.

And as part of the deal Ian said he would even buy Eddie – who was born six weeks premature and spent four weeks recovering at Stockport's Stepping Hill hospital - a shirt and take him to matches.

Ian, a Watford fan originally from Hertfordshire, told BBC Sport: "There's no chance he will support my team."

Well, things didn't quite turn out as planned – because he isn't going to support United, City OR Watford.

When the auction came to an end, a Stockport County fan came in with bid of £190 and asked Ian whether he would accept bids from his local team - rather than just City and United supporters - and he agreed.

Ian said: "The guy who won asked if I would accept County and I said yes. They are the local team I guess.

"Apparently kids tickets at County are just one pound so I'm happy with that! And it's just down the road.

"It's the local team about a mile away, so that's good."

Ian has promised to take his son to games at Stockport's Edgeley Park, buy him a County strip and do all he can to make sure he doesn't support any other team.

The money will go to Bliss, the charity which supports premature and sick babies, so it's all in a good cause.

Which gives me an idea: perhaps I could sell off my own sons' allegiance.

Not to well-meaning strangers, though! When they're working and earning their keep, perhaps – for a hefty consideration – I might, just might, consider allowing them to be anything other than Reds!

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